A Reflection: The Ananya Dance Theater Audience Empowerment Workshop

The Ananya Dance Theater (ADT) hosted an Audience Empowerment Workshop on August 22 at the Frey Theater in The O'Shaughnessy complex at St. Catherine University in St. Paul for the community to learn more about "Horidraa: Golden Healing," ADT's 2016 production. ADT dancers performed excerpts from "Horidraa" and after each performance, Ananya Chatterjea, founder, director, choreographer of ADT opened the floor up for reflection and discussion. 

My mind is still processing what I experienced. I felt naive as I listened to people's reactions, thoughts, and comments regarding the four pieces performed. Naive in the sense that the movements were familiar. Have I been performing this? When was the last time I was seduced? When was the last time I tried to hide my imperfections? When was the last time I told someone to stop and think about what they were saying, consuming, and enforcing? I realized that on a daily basis these dances are performed. The dance I saw today was unpolished, raw and truthful. Below are a brief observation of the first and second performance.

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Revisiting Traditions: Sketching The Clothes #1

Revisiting Traditions: Sketching The Clothes #1

Hmong Scholars, historians, anthropologist, and Hmong elders have stated over and over again that Hmong textiles, clothing and paj ntaub have been traditionally passed down from grandmothers to mothers to daughters and so on. It's an oral and visual tradition that's learned through memorization and produced by the hands of Hmong women. 

I revisited this "traditional" female process to ask the questions: "What if we took this tradition serious? What would Hmong women's clothing look like today if I continued to explore the concept of history, memory and spirituality recorded in the fabric and body? What if we thought serious about the materials that are on the finest traditional Hmong clothing and continued creating? What does it mean to wear The Clothes today? 

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Gazillion Strong: Sex, Dance & Rock n Roll

On February 12th, I was invited by my artist, dancer and activist friend Magnolia to attend an event filled with a variety of community artist and activist at Bedlam Theater. Hosted by Gazillion Strong, a non-profit organization dedicated to the development of resources and tools that aid marginalized communities
(, Sex, Dance, and Rock & Roll brought together community members to support the voices and communities of the indigenous people and people of color (POC). 

Performing that night was the Ananya Dance Theater which was founded in 2004 by Ananya Chatterjea

A Life Underground, a hardcore rock band consisting of friends who found each other through their differences (

See More Perspective, a politically-and-culturally-conscious hip-hop artist (

Horidraa: Golden Healing by The Ananya Dance Theater, Feb. 12, 2016

Voice, Power, and Movement: Horidraa: Golden Healing, 2016 In general, performances are entertaining and connections that are made in real time with beginnings and endings, however I want to focus on the Ananya Dance Theater (ADT) and what it means to be a participant and observer in their work. 

The Ananya Dance Theater (ADT) presented Horidraa: Golden Healing, a piece which engaged the entire space in movements and sounds. Though it was my first experience with ADT, based on this one performance I knew that ADT works to curate radical and provocative ways to experience storytelling. 

Viewers could not look away from this performance as everyone was brought into a spiritual journey where movement and gestures were made recognizable and yet not recognizable. Right off the bat, the performance set a peculiar tone. The sounds and movements animated the space and the audience were made to let go of their preconceived notions of dance and to solely rely on feels. It was  unsettling and uncomfortable hearing the guttural cries of pain, anger, and the huffing and puffing of exhaustion. Their movements went from subtle and pleasing to jarring, grotesque, sad, and pungent. I was a sensory overload, I constantly told myself to take things as they come. In my opinion, the Ananya Dance Theater was re-educating people on how to listen and feel someone's stories. 

In particular this performance felt like a personal narrative told in the lens of someone who comes from a different world, yet recognizable despite the unfamiliarity of the movements. It was a humbling experience as I believe many audience members were left feeling unsettled and wanting to know more about the context of the work. Though it’s important to have context, I think it really works for this particular piece to have audience members come into the space without any notions of what they are seeing and experiencing in front of them, heightening the importance of what is contemporary dance. 

Coming from a small city where POC and indigenous people had no presence, Sex, Dance and Rock n Roll blew my mind away. As I become more familiar with the Twin Cities area, I’m beginning to understand how powerful the voices of POC and indigenous communities can be when there are support systems and especially when there are strong advocators who come together to create. This event creates awareness of these communities and enforces the basic human connections that have been disrupted overtime.

Uploaded by A Life Underground Official on 2016-02-17.