What does it mean to heal, especially in a world that wounds? The answer can be found within the self and in the collective goodness of other people, according to Ananya Dance Theatre’s soul-cleansing “Horidraa: Golden Healing,” which premiered Friday night at the O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University in St. Paul.

The work traces a woman’s journey from a bleak future back into a brighter past. In 2052, Ashwarnahm Barhaili Kofucheenané (Alessandra Lebea Williams), wakes up in a clinic where robotic beings (dressed in silver from hoodie to platform-boot) attempt a variety of treatments, some medical, others comically awkward, like love and beauty therapy.

Ashwarnahm rejects this “care” in favor of a more fulfilling retreat into memory (or perhaps an idyllic afterlife). Sterility is replaced by warm colors inspired by the healing plant turmeric. In this realm she finds the camaraderie of others.

The journey is not an easy one. Artistic director/choreographer Ananya Chatterjea’s technique is based on her own original combination of the Indian dance forms Odissi and Chhau with elements of yoga. The movement is exacting on a physical and emotional level, percussive and rhythmically insistent yet layered with softer moments.

The 10 dancers (including Chatterjea) stamp their feet with frustration in the face of global violence, political confusion and hints of climate change (their mouths gape open, gasping for water). As time passes, however, their bodies flow into more ecstatic states.

As Kofucheenané moves through time and dimension, she communicates her healing story using powerful poetry written by Chatterjea (“My body holds memories / Of voyages, encounters, shared intimacies”). Williams imbues her character with a strong yet subtle presence. As she finds herself freed of the literal and figurative ties that bind, her body relaxes and the words soar. An abundantly layered sound score by Greg Schutte and Andrea Reynolds (Queen Drea) blends influences from digital to psychedelic, incorporating vocals and instrumentation from a variety of local artists.

Chatterjea’s perspective never flinches from exposing injustices women around the globe are subjected to daily. These priorities support “Horidraa”; however, longtime followers of Ananya Dance Theatre will notice a departure in approach. There is humor in the futuristic scenes and the usually grounded movement has a life-affirming lightness to it. Chatterjea may well be casting healing energy outward from the stage, sensing a need for uplift and hope during these uncertain times.


Caroline Palmer is a Twin Cities dance critic.