Minnesota’s prestigious Anderson Award goes to dancer/choreographer Ananya Chatterjea

Dancer and choreographer Ananya Chatterjea will be honored Friday with the Anderson Award, given to

Dancer and choreographer Ananya Chatterjea will be honored Friday with the Anderson Award, given to Minnesotans who have made notable contributions to art and literature.

Like many recipients, Chatterjea has contributed to the community in a variety of ways, noted Stephanie Rogers, director of the Anderson Center in Red Wing, which sponsors the award.

“Ananya is obviously a talented choreographer and dancer, but also an educator and a scholar at the intersection of dance and social justice,” said Rogers.

That harkens back to the award’s namesake, Alexander P. Anderson, the inventor of puffed rice and puffed wheat cereals. A “polymath,” Anderson also was an educator, botanist, writer and naturalist, said Rogers.

Past recipients include Louise Erdrich, Siah Armajani, Robert Bly and Judy Onofrio.

Chatterjea’s work, whether presented in a large concert venue or as a public art performance, always asks questions that are relevant to the world at the moment. She chooses timely topics — from the environment to race or violence against women — to grapple with through dance, projection, sound and other interdisciplinary elements.

Increasingly, she has been drawn to direct action. Her Ananya Dance Theatre performed last month at a camp in northern Minnesota where Native people and their allies are protesting the Line 3 pipeline.

“These are performances, not just stage performances, not just carefully crafted public art performances,” Chatterjea said. “These moments where you just bring the body’s metaphoric articulations to bear on the moment of the rally— these too are performances and it makes a connection to direct action.”

A YouTube event at 7 p.m. Friday will include a prerecorded interview by Rogers that covers Chatterjea’s role as an educator and as a dancer in social justice; new work she is developing, and her thoughts on how dance and the arts might emerge from the COVID-19 crisis. There also will be an excerpt from one of a series of films Chatterjea made this summer with her company, followed by a live Q&A.

Sheila Regan is a Minneapolis arts journalist and critic.

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