Ananya Dance Theatre completes quartet on women and violence

Ananya Dance Theatre completes quartet on women and violence
Photo by V. Paul Virtucio

For the past four years, Ananya Dance Theatre (ADT) has been investigating systemic violence impacting women around the globe through the lens of mud, gold, oil, and now water. The troupe has created work that looks into both the political and social forces that are the cause of environmental crisis, as well as the aesthetic and spiritual nature of the elements themselves.

This weekend is your chance to see the final presentation of this quartet, "Mohona: Estuaries of Desire," produced by ADT and St. Catherine University as part of the Women of Substance Series. 

Previously, ADT used things like mud, gold, and oil as focal points for the ways that environmental catastrophe has been the cause of violence against women around the world. "Each element has a whole history," ADT artistic director Ananya Chatterjea says, reflecting on the series as a whole. "I found that every time, women are so much at the forefront of systemic violence."  

For "Mohona: Estuaries of Desire," ADT takes on water, presenting an evening of work that includes a partnership with American Indian activist Sharon Day and leaders from the Indigenous People's Task Force. Chatterjea says conversations with Day and others helped shape the choreographic arch, but also informed Chatterjea's personal relationship with water, helping her to view her relationship with it as an act of love. 

Chatterjea participated in the Mississippi River Water Walk, which she says influenced the piece in tangible ways, such as the use of a song in the performance, as well as intangible ways. Chatterjea also recalls how walking with Day on a cold afternoon with giant snowflakes and bright sunshine along the Mississippi reminded her of the river in Calcutta.  

The O'Shaughnessy performance gives audiences a chance to experience a version of the incredible piece that ADT presented at Northern Spark last summer along the river, which included audience participation in dance, singing, and ritual. For the show this weekend, audiences will again be asked to participate, whether through singing and dancing, joining in a procession, or by contributing a wish, memory, thought, or prayer to the metaphoric river. 

Chatterjea also collaborates with vocal artist and composer Mankwe Ndosi for the concert, and the two will be doing a duet that was developed through improvisation, though Chatterjea says that now the piece is much more structured. The duet examines the topic of fluoride medicating the water. Other collaborators include set designer Annie Katsura Rollins, lighting designer Mike Wangen, composer Greg Schutte, and vocalist Pooja Goswami Pavan. 

Chatterjea believes in art for social justice, and the value of ensemble work. "I don't have resources to take the harsh chemicals out of the water," she says, "but I have to believe in energetic connections. I believe if all the people in the theater are all together sending out wishes for the water, maybe something has got to shift. I don't know how. All I can have is my intention." 


"Mohona: Estuaries of Desire"
8 p.m. Friday, September 20 and Saturday, September 21
The O'Shaughnessy
2004 Randolph Ave., St. Paul
$17-$27 for adults; $2 off for seniors and children
Call 651.690.6700 or visit for more info

Ananya Dance Theatre's Creative Process from Ananya Dance Theatre on Vimeo.

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O'Shaughnessy Auditorium

2004 Randolph Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55105


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