Water is important to Minnesota: the lakes, the mighty Mississippi, even the snow. During drought water is still accessible here with the turn of a tap. We take it for granted.
But as Ananya Dance Theatre powerfully demonstrates in "Mohona: Estuaries of Desire," which premiered Friday night at The O'Shaughnessy, we could lose this life-giving resource. Many world citizens already know this loss all too well.
Choreographer Ananya Chatterjea's work focuses on social justice and human rights from a global perspective. She and her troupe of dedicated performers explore these subjects through the Indian dance form of Odissi as well as elements of the Chhau martial arts tradition and yoga. These fiery artists demand attention, action and the abandonment of complacency. And they get it.
An opening image summed up the evening: Chatterjea moving slowly inside a large plastic bubble, as if she inhabited a molecule within water's physical and chemical properties — the very essence of H20. Mike Wangen's lights reflected beautifully off the surface. But disruption was inevitable — soon Chatterjea lay on the ground, the bubble flattened by the other dancers' fists and feet. Humanity abuses water through pollution, chemical runoff and Fukushima's radioactive poison.
Multitalented singer Mankwe Ndosi acted as the living embodiment of water, her fluid voice teaching, taunting, even descending into madness. "Do to me, do to we," she warned. And as the dancers journeyed through each scene, their feet stamping the ground with rhythmic urgency, the combination of voice and movement assumed its own organic flow, sometimes serene as a forest stream or tumultuous as an ocean storm-tossed by an atmosphere in the throes of climate change.
Chatterjea's uncompromising intensity, Renee Copeland's effortless detailing of every movement, Hui Niu Wilcox's grounded grace and Orlando Hunter's emotional bravery were just a few examples of the many high-quality performances on Friday. Greg Schutte's assertive musical score offered up a range of sonic textures, from blissful peace to heavy metal pounding.
"What do you want your ripple effect to be?" This is more than a simple question from one of Ndosi's songs. We need to find an answer.
Caroline Palmer writes about dance.