#WomenOfInterest: Ananya Chatterjea
July 27th, 2018 by Richie Kormos
Ananya Chetterjea is a contemporary dancer, scholar, artistic director, choreographer, founder of the Ananya Dance Theatre, and this week’s #WomenOfInterest ! Let’s take a look at her inspiring story!
Ananya Chetterjea grew up in Kolkata, India. She started training early in Indian classical and folk dance, and specialized in the the traditional Odissi style. Throughout her childhood, Chatterjea witnessed many injustices. Because of this, she set out to explore contemporary Indian dance rooted in social justice.
In the early 90’s, Chatterjea moved to New York City, where she studied at Columbia University. Not before long, she moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota as a Professor of Dance at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Theatre Arts and Dance. In 2004, Chatterjea founded the Ananya Dance Theatre, a contemporary Indian dance company composed of women artists of color.
At her theatre, artists utilize art and choreography as a means of social justice activism. They focus on making “people powered dances of transformation,” sharing the stories and struggles of women all over the world. Ananya Dance Theatre artists explore themes including, but are not limited to, environmental injustice, colonization, and capitalism.
According to Chatterjea, it is the work of artists that may “[open] the ground, creating a space for questions, for provoking discussion, and for offering images that then resonate in people’s minds. They see their impact on the community when audiences come back year after year to see the work. When audiences come for a community conversation.”
Chatterjea’s community-engaged choreographic process is “based on intense multi-layered research, story-sharing, dialogue, and experimentation.” It “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.”
The Ananya Dance Theatre premieres one new show a year in the Twin Cities. In past years, this performance has covered issues like the impact of oil drilling on communities and the surrounding environment, as seen in their 2012 performance, entitled “Moreechika: Season of Mirage.”
When preparing for the dance company’s performances, artists don’t just learn the choreography of the dance piece, but also research the subject of each year’s concerts. They watch documentaries, collaborate with community activists, and write creative responses from what they’ve learned. The performers work hard to better “embody the emotions of the story on stage.”
In addition, Chatterjea’s dance company also tours and holds workshops throughout the year, and has traveled to numerous countries and cities across the globe.
Today, Chatterjea lives in Minneapolis. She continues to lead her dance company and teaches as a professor of dance at the University of Minnesota.
For more information about Chatterjea and her dance company, visit www.ananyadancetheatre.org.
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Genni Abilock is a writer for StarQuest. She loves baby carrots, SpongeBob, and playing Frank Sinatra songs on the ukulele.