Ananya Dance Theatre takes on troubled waters with Mohona: Estuaries of Desire

This weekend Ananya Dance Theatre presents its final work in what has been a four-year investigation of systemic violence in women’s lives.

Titled “Mohona: Estuaries of Desire,” the piece focuses on water.

Ananya Dance Theatre presents "Mohona: Estuaries of Desire" (Photo by V. Paul Virtucio)

“The stories of water fill me with terror,” says company founder Ananya Chatterjea. “It is said that the wars of the coming century will be fought over water, this resource without which humanity cannot survive. There are stories of farmers in India (where agriculture is still a primary livelihood) who are committing suicide in desperation because they cannot pay for the water that is no longer a shared community resource (now that Coca-Cola has bought up water sources).

“At the same time, in all the work we have done in listening to Native leaders in our community, I have really been horrified at our collective global amnesia — we forget how closely we are related to water. And when I walked with Sharon Day on her Mississippi River Walk, I remembered something I had grown up with but forgotten: that water is an intimate part of our cosmology, integrally connected to life and living.”

Chatterjea says there are also stories of joy around water, and around the notion of “flow.”  Both the positive and the negative have informed Chatterjea and her dancers as they created “Mohona,” which runs Friday and Saturday night at the O’Shaughnessy in St. Paul.

Ananya Dance Theatre presents "Mohona: Estuaries of Desire" (Photo by V. Paul Virtucio)

Chatterjea says water is both a great connector and divider.

“As it flows through our lives, we realize the inequities that mark our access to it. So the stories of conflict over river water in India and Bangladesh are not so far from the refugee camp stories shared by friends who have arrived here via Ethiopia and Somalia; the way in which the contrasting moments of drought and flood–the chaotic unpredictable flow of water –are something we are all witnessing across the world; the way we are pumping disastrous chemicals into our rivers with chemical treating of lawns, mining mining, and more mining, chemical cleaning agents, microchips manufacturing, are having effects all over the world.”

Previous works by ADT have focused on the impact of industrial manipulation of land, gold and oil. Chatterjea says that, over the years, her research has taught her that the expansion of capitalism is marked by the aggressive advance of hierarchies based in race, gender, class, nationality and sexuality.

Ananya Dance Theatre presents "Mohona: Estuaries of Desire" (Photo by V. Paul Virtucio)

But she says some of the more powerful and innovative problem solving often comes from those who have little resources – very often, women.

“I constantly witness the paradigm-shifting work women do, only it doesn’t go down in history as ‘work,’ explains Chatterjea. “That work is what sustains us so often. Sometimes that work is about love and nurturing, at other times it is about fighting fiercely. Sometimes it is simply about disobedience, refusing to consent. All of that shapes our world. I want to acknowledge the many kinds of work and how they are all core to the world in which we live.”

To that end, Chatterjea is launching a new series of dances in the coming year, focusing on women’s work.