Dr Ananya Chatterjea
Theatre Arts and Dance
111A Barbara Barker Center
500 21st Avenue South
Ananya Chatterjea, Professor of Dance in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Theater Arts & Dance, locates her research and teaching at the intersection of creative and scholarly research. She is the also founder and artistic director of Ananya Dance Theatre (www.ananyadancetheatre.org), a dance company of women artists of color committed to social justice choreography and to making “people powered dances of transformation.”
Trained originally in classical and folk Indian dance forms, Chatterjea specialized in the classical tradition of Odissi under the tutelage of the renowned exponent of this form, Sanjukta Panigrahi. Increasingly, however, her questions about the market forces that have come to govern the performance of “classical” forms drew her away from this work towards creating a form that could allow for the articulation of a feminine subjectivity and a politics of resistance.
Vitally interested in the creation of a contemporary Indian dance mode, Ananya began her explorations of form and theme in dance in the 1980’s. Now she has formalized a contemporary Indian dance language, Yorchha,TM based on deconstructions and extensions of the movement principles of Odissi, vinyasa yoga, and the martial art form, Mayurbhanj Chhau. Ananya is indebted for her choreographic insights to the gurus and teachers she worked with in India, from whom she imbibed ideas about alternative choreographic structures. However, it is through her study of street theater and feminist praxis across the world that she arrived at her fierce commitment to the immediate relationship between bodily artistic practices and social justice movement. She describes her particular community-engaged choreographic process, based on intense multi-layered research, story-sharing, dialogue, and experimentation, as Shawngram, or resistance. Her choreographic work takes the form of concert stage performances and of more interactive performance installations invigorated by her philosophy of #occupydance, where audiences become co-creators of movement explorations with the dancers.
Her most recent work, Roktim, was described as characterized by “cohesive, precise movement vocabulary” and a “unique aesthetic” that “found a fresh liveliness in the agriculture sweatshop nightmare” (Star Tribune, 9/20/15). Roktim was presented as the keynote performance at the Crossing Boundaries Festival in Addis Ababa and toured Ethiopia with State Department support.
Ananya is the proud recepient a 2012 McKnight Choreography Fellowship and a 2011 Guggenheim Choreography Fellowship. She has grants from prestigious organizations such as the Asian Arts Initiative, McKnight Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, Jerome Foundation, as well as a prestigious artist fellowship from the Bush Foundation. She has won honorable citations as “Artist of the Year” (City Pages, 2001), “Changemaker” (Women’s Press, 2005), “Outstanding Dance Educator” (Sage Awards in Dance, 2015), “Best Choreographer” (Star Tribune, 2016), and was recently featured in NBC news (http://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/dances-transformation-ananya-dance-theatre-finds-justice-through-movement-n611701). Ananya has received awards from the BIHA (Black Indian Hispanic Asian) Women In Action organization and from the MN Women’s Political Caucus, the 21 leaders for the 21st Century Award from Women’s E-News (http://www.womensenews.org/21leaders2007.cfm), and the the Josie Johnson Social Justice and Human Rights Award at the University of Minnesota, for her work weaving together community-building and artistic excellence and creating a space for women’s voices through artistic practices. Ananya Dance Theatre was recently awarded the Arts Achievement Award by the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (2016).
Recent engagements include performances and master classes at the Harare International Festival for the Arts, Zimbabwe; dance talks at University of Rome and Kunsthistoriches Institut, Florence; and performances at the Indian Council of Cultural Relations, Kolkata, India, Festivale Danca Indiana de America de Sul in Campinas, Brazil; Indigenous Contemporary Dance Festival at National Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuquerque; and Norwegian Theater Academy, Oslo, and artist residencies at New Waves Institute in Trinidad.
Ananya’s first book Butting Out (Wesleyan University Press, 2004), featuring the work of Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Chandralekha, marked her research trajectory as studying the interwoven aesthetic and political dimensions in the dance works of artists of color. Since then, she has written and published widely, in prestigious journals such as Dance Theatre Journal and in anthologies such as Worlding Dance (Palgrave McMillan, 2009). She is currently working on her second manuscript Heat, contesting lines in contemporary dance.