Ananya Dance Theatre to perform, offer public workshops

Ananya Dance Theatre (ADT), a contemporary Indian company of women of color committed to the interchange between art and social justice, is set to perform and offer multiple free public workshops here on campus, January 29 through February 2, 2019. All events take place at Loree Dance Theater.

Learn more about the free dance workshops and performances of Shaatranga: Women Weaving Worlds.

Choreographer Ananya Chatterjea, awarded a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship for choreography, serves as ADT’s founding artistic director. ADT has mined a variety of issues, including environmental justice, violence against women, and systemic violence. At Rutgers, Chatterjea, along with ADT company members, will present Shaatranga: Women Weaving Worlds, her fifth evening-length choreography celebrating the unacknowledged labor that women perform to sustain communities.

Chatterjea, who founded ADT in 2004, says her interest in “social-justice choreography” stems from her upbringing in Kolkata, India.

“I trained in the classical and folks dance forms, which instilled a clear aesthetic in me,” she says, “but I also longed for the urgency of the street theater I witnessed around me in the city.” Chatterjea says her work with artists who had been connected with the Indian People’s Theatre Association only underscored her attraction to infusing art with politics.

Chatterjea is committed to the educational aspect of her work, and determined to offer a rich artistic experience that connects with audiences on a gut level.

“To me, this intersection is fertile,” Chatterjea says. “I want to invite audiences into the work. All of the activities that we do deepen audiences’ stake in the performance—so they are actively engaged with us as we move the piece along.” Activities at Rutgers will include workshops on her Yorchha movement language, as well as a symposium on dance and social justice, among other events.

“Social justice cannot happen through one person or even with one small group: It needs everyone,” Chatterjea adds. “My commitment is to keep inviting everyone in.”

MFA dance student Camille Moten says she’s hopeful that ADT’s residency will nudge young dancers to question the status quo.

“The more dancers that enter the professional world with a social consciousness that questions and challenges the hierarchy of dance genres, companies, presenting houses, and types of storytelling, then the more quickly we can move ourselves towards diversity, equity, and inclusion in dance arts,” Moten says.

Julia M. Ritter, chair and artistic director of the Mason Gross Dance Department, says she believes “students from across Rutgers will be particularly drawn to the Shaatranga production and associated residency activities for the ways that these events bring together issues of social justice and women’s rights through the powerfully expressive forms of dance, performance, theater, and art.”

In fact, ADT’s events represent a wide-ranging collaboration: Co-sponsorship is provided by the partners from across Rutgers University, such as the Cultural Center Collaborative, AMESALL, Africana Studies, the Rutgers Global Event Co-Sponsorship program, the South Asian Studies Program, The Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research and Service, the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, and the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs.

“I am thrilled and grateful for these partners,” Ritter says. “They share my interest in engaging artists who will demonstrate how the arts, in particular dance in this case, can foreground issues of justice and equality in was that can catalyze productive dialogues.”

This engagement of Ananya Dance Theatre is made possible through the Arts CONNECT program of Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Please note: Rutgers parking regulations have changed. Follow this link to register your vehicle: www.masongross.rutgers.edu/parking. To reserve tickets for the performance, call the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center ticket office at 848-932-7511. Loree Dance Theater is located at 70 Lipman Drive, on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, in New Brunswick. For more information about any Mason Gross event, visit www.masongross.rutgers.edu or call 848-932-7511. No tickets are required for the workshops or symposium.

Photos by Randy Karels.

Posted January 2019.