Ananya Dance Theatre

(woman) Ananya Dance Theatre is a company of women of color, across races and ages and class and sexuality. It’s very important to us to have that range within the women of color, and we make work that brings together artistic excellence and social justice. 1, 2, we are ready to go. 1, 2… Ananya is very well-known nationally, both for her dancing and also for her academic work and her rigor in publishing papers on topics such as dance and cultural perspectives. This goes here. As they open out, they just remain this empty. (Ananya) Odissi is a classical dance form from the eastern part of India, the state of Orissa. Actually, some historians will suggest that it was one of the oldest dance forms we have evidence of, you know, going back to 5th-century BC, but through time, and especially in the colonial period, there was complete lack of patronage for the arts. For many years, it was sort of pushed away by the British colonizers. It was seen as maybe a little bit overly sexualized. (Ananya) Odissi is also a very sensuous form, very much about curvalinearality. It’s very rounded, and it has a lot of torso movement, lot of hip displacement, very sculturesque forms. Through poetic bodily metaphors, we hint at ideas, and we sort of unfold a single idea in many ways. So we share that multiple interpretations are possible of the same idea. That’s what Odissi has done a lot of. But I’m not doing classical Odissi. I’m taking Odissi, and I’m deconstructing it, and I’m extending it to make a different form, mixing it with Yoga and Chhau. and making a different form, a contemporary form, a feminist form, articulating women’s experiences. To me, when I think of my lifestyle, certainly when I was growing up in Calcutta and now here too, the most common experience is running for the bus. You know? If I’m running for the bus in my sari, okay, what do I need to do? I think about that and how that will mesh with this very clear classical position here, and then somewhere in the middle falls the dance. The women who come to train with me, they have to work really hard. They train with me at least 3 days a week, and it’s year around, the training, and then by the time summer comes around, they’re working with me 6 days a week for 4 hours, yeah. (Gina) She wants people that have commitment, and she gives a lot of commitment to us. She really puts a piece of herself, really gives so much and is so engrossed in supporting each of us as individuals and really pushing us towards excellence. She doesn’t give up on us, and she won’t let us give up on ourselves. Dancers, swing here, 1, 2. (Ananya take a deep breath) 1, over, 2. The other foot down too. Dancing together, sharing that labor, sharing that stage, sharing that stage together and knowing that if a mistake is made there, I will still be there to support that person. That’s really powerful for me. (people clap hands in rhythm) (Ananya) I hope that for future generations, dance is returned to its place as an incredibly powerful medium of communicating ideas. Communicating ideas; you know, the ideas in all their complexity, not a single line idea, which can fit into the 49 characters of a tweet???, but a complex idea because of its power of metaphor, because it brings forth the body. And you cannot avoid, you can’t just see words and say I’ll think about it later. It’s an immediacy of connection. So I hope dance, I hope audiences, and certainly our youth who see dance now and who do dance now, that they understand it’s about that power.

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