Dance dance ... social revolution!

Members of the Ananya Dance Theatre translate enormous, messy issues into beautiful, clean-lined contemporary dance.
  • John Sand
September 09, 2009

“Ashesh Barsha, Unending Monsoon”
WHERE: Southern Theater, 1420 S. Washington Ave. Minneapolis
WHEN: Sep. 10 - 13
PRICE: $22

Members of Ananya Dance Theatre aren’t organizing bus boycotts in Montgomery, Ala. or marching in Washington, DC., but they’re still engaging in activism. The socially and politically driven dance work begins its creative process with discussion of social injustice in a non-traditional language, one of the movement between human bodies.
“Ashesh Barsha, Unending Monsoon,” is the third work and grand finale in a trilogy of similar works by Ananya Dance Theatre.
Each dance explores an expanding physical problem, like pollution or wasteful energy expenditure. The first production, which began four years ago, focused on the body burden of industrial, toxic spillage. The sequel, “Pipasha: Extreme Thirst,” dealt with the destruction of lifestyles associated with the appropriation of indigenous land.
Work for the production of “Ashesh Barsha, Unending Monsoon,” began a year ago, with workshops on environmental justice, conversations with collaborators in the community, and the exploration of social justice advocacy.
Approaching the topics with movement is a way to make overwhelming, abstract issues into concrete, expressive motions. Each production so far has dealt with self and the impossibility of escaping participation in the machine. As consumers, Americans are drawn and forced into indirectly harming the environment and themselves.
As Ananya Chatterjea, Director of Ananya Dance Theater and dance professor for the University of Minnesota, says, “Do I have a right to control what goes into my body? Do I have a right to say ‘I own this land’?” Who has a say in the constant global expenditure of energy?”
Chatterjea compares the torrents of energy usage to a monsoon. “Where I’m from,” Chatterjea says, “Monsoons have this ‘romantic appeal’ … but if they continue forever, the results would be devastating.”
Kayva Yang, a former University student with an IDIM degree in social and political science and current dancer and Development Director at ADT, says, “As a student, you look for a community and develop yourself within that student community.”
Yang had no formal training with dance when she responded to an ADT call for women of color dancers five years ago. She said the experience extends beyond “who are you as a dancer?” to “how do you become more politically engaged? What is relevant for a woman of color?”
ADT aims not to simply entertain the gentry, Yang said, but to “create a more permanent space in the community, a space for artistic excellence.”
“We want to do more than raise questions,” Yang said. “The goal is to contribute to how communities take action.”

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