Ananya Dance Theatre dreams of revolution in ‘Neel’

Ananya Dance Theatre has built its reputation on illuminating social and environmental injustices through dance.

It’s marking its 10th season with a shift to more-positive themes.

Ananya Dance Theatre
(Photo by V. Paul Virtucio)

Thursday through Saturday, Ananya Dance Theatre presents “Neel: Blutopias of Radical Dreaming”at the Cowles Center for Dance in Minneapolis.

Artistic Director Ananya Chatterjea says the concert is the first in a five part-series examining women’s work.

Chatterjea, a native of India, says the word “neel” means “blue” in her native tongue, Bangla. The term “Blutopia,” first coined by Duke Ellington, is meant to suggest a world dreamt from a place of pain and loss.

“This is not sleep dreaming,” explained Chatterjea, “but ‘dreaming’ as in invoking a future in which we can be whole and have access to happiness. This often means that we are cut down at the prime of our lives. [Pakistani activist] Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head, but she also transformed our lives. We die again and again, but our dreams change the world; it shifts something in our universe.”

Future performances will examine love for the land, healing, speaking out, and “world-making.”

Alexandra Eady performs in Ananya Dance Theatre’s “Neel: Blutopias of Radical Dreaming”
(Photo by V. Paul Virtucio)

Ananya Dance Theatre has its own distinct style of dance which blends contemporary Indian dance, yoga and martial arts.

The performance does not shy away from examining the source of the “blues,” but unlike previous ADT shows, it spends more time conjuring a world in which women are liberated from systemic violence.

It also presents a world in which women are free to openly love one another.

“In a patriarchal system we are not able to love each other. There’s a necessity to be catty and mean to each other, and it’s all for men’s approval, Chatterjea said. “That’s how patriarchy survives, by pitting women against each other. Finding the self that we can love is very important because that in turn enables us to love others.”

“Neel” includes a guest performance by Shá Cage and vocalizations by Chastity Brown, Mankwe Ndosi and Pooja Goswami. Greg Schutte created the soundscape for the dances.

Renée Copeland in
“Neel: Blutopias of Radical Dreaming”
(Photo by V. Paul Virtucio)

Chatterjea said while the new series deals with some similar topics from the company’s previous work, the tone is more urgent.

“Probably because I’m older, I feel more impatient. So this whole series for me is about an oncoming revolution – I’m inviting it,” she said. “I really feel there is a war on women, and it doesn’t get told. Sexual violence, rape, the erosion of rights, the erosion of women as intellectual partners –they’re all a part of this.”

Performances of “Neel: Blutopias of Radical Dreaming” run Sept. 18-20 at the Cowles Center for Dance in Minneapolis.