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Ananya Dance Theatre brings protest to the stage

(Courtesy of Ananya Dance Theatre)

Ananya Dance Theatre’s latest production, “Michhil Amra: We Are the Procession” captures the bodily expression of desire for a more just system. The production honors the uprising following the murder of George Floyd, and examines the perception of systemic violence as “normal.” “Michhil” means ‘protest’ or ‘procession’ in the Bangla language. In solidarity with the uprising, the dance company organized a series of processions in the Twin Cities. Artistic Director and company founder Ananya Chatterjea says the performance grew out of those processions.

“To me, dance is like organizing communities,” said Chatterjea. “We are of different heights, different sizes, different body types. And we are negotiating space with each other all the time, without saying ‘you’re going to move this way.’ We look at each other and find a way and still find rhythm and joy. The sharing of space, moving in and out of each other, there's something for society to look at dance and learn that. And I say that because ensemble choreography is a very particular kind of craft. It's not like one soloist and people in the background. It's all of us moving together at the same time in solidarity. So I'm interested in this notion of solidarity.”

Ananya Dance Theatre (ADT) is a BIPOC-women centered dance company based in St. Paul. It’s known for producing works of art centered around social justice themes. Chatterjea says her artistry is rooted in experiences from her hometown, Kolkata. She says the common use of protests to disrupt injustices within her community inspires her work today.

Chatterjea says this is her most hyperlocal work because it pays tribute to the uprising following the murder of George Floyd, the leaders and participants of the uprising, and George Floyd Square. Chatterjea says “Michhil Amra: We Are the Procession” compels the audience to remember.

“Who else but dance can remind us of bodies coming together, forcing an issue, interrupting, disrupting, reconvening, getting together again? It’s bodies showing up again and again,” said Chatterjea. “Bodies come, fill a stage, they go away. But the energetic stamp remains on the space.”

ADT is known for its artistic collaborations. “Michhil Amra” features live performances by musical artists Douglas Ewart, Michelle Kinney, and Tarek Abdelquader, and by acclaimed poet Douglas Kearney.

Chatterjea says this performance will redefine expectations of dance and theater, incorporating alternative elements like meditation and protest to create a full visual and auditory celebration of life.

“Michhil Amra: We Are the Procession” takes place on September 22 and 23 at The O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University.

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