Indian-American dance theater in Minnesota gets $100,000 grant

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Members of Ananya Dance Theater of Minneapolis, Minnesota, pose for a photo. (Photo:ananyadancetheater.org/Facebook)

The Ananya Dance Theater, a Minneapolis-based organization secured a $100,000 grant this March from the McKnight Foundation of Minnesota.

The dance group, which was founded in 2004 by artistic director , choreographer and dancer Ananya Chatterjea, describes itself as a “professional, Contemporary Indian American Dance company comprised primarily of women artists of color.” Those involved consider themselves “cultural activists” using dance to engage audiences and move toward justice.

The $100,000 grant which is given “for general operating purpose” is the third on Ananya Dance Theater has received from McKnight. It also received $70,000 in 2017 and $40,000 in 2014, according to the McKnight website. The McKnight Foundation awarded 36 grants totaling $25.3 million in its first-quarter 2018 grant making.

“We create original Contemporary Indian American Dance theater at the intersection of artistic excellence and social justice,” the group says on its website.

Ananya Dance Theater, Minneapolis, Minnesota, profile pic on Facebook

Describing itself as a “professional company of primarily women artists of color,” the Ananya Dance Theater says “We are fierce optimists who believe that crating with intention can make a difference in the world.”

Chatterjea is inspired by the politically charged “group theatre” tradition of Kolkata, where she grew up, and the intricate beauty and power of the classical dance form Odissi, which was her primary training, according to the dance company’s website.

Its dances are “our choreographic responses to global issues,” the group says. Some of the titles of its dances are “Shaatranga: At the Edge of New Worlds 2018”;  and “Shyamali: Sprouting Words 2017.”  This May 5, it will perform “Shyamali” at Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia, PA. The dance explores how dissent fuels life force and growth and recognized the courage of women who speak up against injustices.

After ten years of evolving, the group says, “what remains vital in the company’s work is the commitment to a nuanced sense of artistry and to a process that is vigilant about social justice.” “Our artists identify as “cultural activists,” movement artists who claim a stake in shaping our future,” ADT says.

Alongside happening movements like the Occupy movement, Chatterjea has framed a “daak,” Bengali for ‘call to action’ in #occupydance, inviting audiences to embody movement as a mode of civic action. Today, ADT has two kinds of performances, and dancing ind two different kinds of venues – concert halls, and outdoor less formal venues. It also collaborates with talented artists from global communities of color.