Of suffering and strength


Ananya Dance Theatre presents Kshoy! this weekend at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis

It’s difficult to imagine anything more diametrically opposed to classical ballet than the work of Ananya Dance Theatre.

In ballet, women are made to dance on “pointe,” giving the impression that they are floating across a stage, like ethereal spirits.

In ADT performances, women stomp their feet, heels flat on the floor, declaring “I am here, and I am real” with each step.

In ballet, women are valued for slender, long bodies that can easily be picked up and carried by the male lead.

In ADT, the dancers are strong and muscular, with biceps that could wrestle you to the ground, and calf muscles that will keep you there. If anybody will be doing the carrying, they will.

These are not swans on stage; these are women to be reckoned with.

Founder and Artistic Director Ananya Chatterjea recently completed a three part series of performances about the environment, and how the destruction of the environment effects womens lives around the globe. This weekend marks the beginning of a new, four part series by ADT. Now Chatterjea says she’s shifting the focus of her work to capitalism, and how the forces of capitalism are linked to violence against women.

What happens is we tend to domesticate violence against women – its their problem – referring to a specific couple. Whereas if we realize that domestic violence is systemic and springs from greater issues, than we’re implicated in that problem. It’s different.

An excerpt from “Tigers,” one of the dances that make up the performance “Kshoy!/Decay!”

The first performance is titled Kshoy!/Decay! and deals with land and displacement. Chatterjea looked to places like Sudan and Sri Lanka to better understand the lives of women who are forced to flee their homes, and try to make a new life for their families elsewhere only to have to flee once more. Chatterjea says the entire company is involved in doing research and discussing the issues they find.

Some of the things we thought of were, what does it mean when something like the Haiti earthquake happens? What does it mean to lose your home, to have your children taken away “to a better place?”

Sometimes those women are forced to become warriors, as in the piece “Tigers” (excerpted in the above video clip). Here the movement refers to battle, with the wide sweeping arm gestures implying the throwing of grenades.

Future performances in the coming years will explore issues surrounding oil, gold and water.


Laurie Carlos

For this series, Chatterjea is partnering with writer/performer Laurie Carlos, who has a long history of working on projects related to race and women’s issues. Carlos has brought text to the movement, underscoring themes of displacement and loss.

The Voices


Tell of the smoldering landscape torn and tossed.

Opened /

Reopened torn /

Scored /

Some poisons fall close to eyes

Hands dissolve broken in prayer, crushed in the night. Taken under by force by mallet, by sharpened blade, by tare, by reach, by smash.

Crossings out into the night of flames.

Consumed in broken teeth.

Rushed at in the moment of escape

It is not yet the end of the days spent so long at the edge of a breaking sky /

Sure mist of vast sighs /

Songs lost /

All cross /resign /release

Carlos’ text, combined with classical Odissi dance, martial arts, and breath-driven yoga movement combine to create a powerful, sometimes overwhelming experience. Then there’s the soundtrack, created by percussionist Greg Schutte, using everything from jangling silverware to boiling steam kettles, to the crash and churn of industry. As a whole, the piece can be disturbing, if only occasionally hopeful.

Chatterjea makes it clear her goal is not to entertain, but to communicate:

It’s excellent dance, and there’s a beauty in that, in line and form, but we’ve got to make sure that the dance, which has so much metaphor and abstraction – we’ve got to make sure that those stories go out… that we keep pushing it out, that maybe that will cause some shift somewhere. Dance is what I know to do, so that’s the way I can communicate these histories to people.

Kshoy!/Decay! runs September 9 – 12 at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis.