Anandam creates live performances that use the body as a curious and shifting filter for diverse viewpoints and practices, through an aesthetic that is contemporary, post-disciplinary, and polycultural.
Our work derives from a fascination by how we are – or, are not – present together, examined through different kinds of knowing and awareness in performance. To us, this presence is embodied, energetic, shamanistic, ethical, physical, simple and clear. This interest takes many forms, in theatres, cityscapes or landscapes; in the spectacular or introspective; in site-specificity or slow time; but always at its root, is intimacy, attention, and an altered orientation of the senses.
Anandam celebrates the multifaceted world of contemporary performance by creating, presenting and curating work through body-based entry points across genres (dance, circus, theatre, installation) and cultural perspectives (European, Indian, North American). We source alternative spaces and re-envision traditional ones; we seek different experiences of exchange with the audience, from education, to engagement, to public participation in performance. Collaboration, with artists, audiences and presenting partners, is essential to what we do. Animating the intersections between traditional and contemporary practices, Anandam brings artists and audiences together to hold diverse cosmologies of the body within a larger spectrum in the consideration of a contemporary experience.
Our core activities involve the creation of dances, developed and performed in distinct scopes and scales, working with diverse influences, approaches, audiences and physical languages. Auxiliary to our core activities of dance making we are deeply engaged and committed to the collaborative processes of curation, education and the presentation of artists and their works that align with our curiosities. We work to create space for a diversity of forms and discourses that support the expansion of ideas, practices and definitions in the field of contemporary dance, holding multiple world views and cosmologies of the body within a larger spectrum to consider the contemporary moment.
Anandam’s vision is shaped by values of inclusiveness, presence and collective inquiry, crossing through diverse movement practices and supporting the actualization of many different perspectives of the dancing body. Leary’s practice is founded upon alternative and collaborative creation and performance practices through which she has forged new relationships with cultural institutions to place dance in unconventional contexts before wide and diverse audiences.
Her choreographic interest is rooted in states of consciousness, and the way they are influenced by the body. Her work is informed by ritual dance and theatrical forms, where the purpose of performance is transformation – the dancer is the means to change the audience's state of being. She works with the body as a method of philosophical inquiry to create contemporary performances through versatile physical approaches, and recognizes her work part of a distinctly poly-cultural lineage, integrating practices and perspectives from East and West.
The first decade of our work has led not only to tendrils stemming and twining from this aesthetic. It has also allowed us to develop a particular skill, sensibility and ethic around partnership; a curiosity about the spaces that can hold performance; about the way that scale alters, but does not necessarily diminish, our sense of intimacy; the way that we relate not only to the experience of performance but the experience of being with others. This led to our curiosity about participary performance practices, which we have delved into with the support of the Metcalf Foundation. As part of this we developed the Audience-in-Residence (AiR), a curated group of people including returning and new, many from beyond the community of dance or even performance or arts, who attend rehearsals and performances and provide feedback with an evolving sensitivity to our questions, and who simultaneously become more adept at reading the metaphors of the body and space.
We ask questions about our most practiced ways of orienting ourselves in theatrical architectures and are deeply curious about how we can reimagine audience/performer relationships. Our work questions how much space can be held in the language of contemporary dance and what that might look like in the current process of de-colonizing our dance practices, histories and architectures.
Our artistic programming engages contemporary dance rooted in post-contemporary dance/performance, Indian dance and contemporary circus approaches and is realised through independent and co-productions, commissioned work, education and outreach. Much of our vision is shaped by a deep curiosity to examine spaces of expansion and inclusion in the sphere of contemporary dance. In an ideal world, “contemporaneity” should speak to the cultural moment in which a choreographic act or movement takes place. But in fact, “contemporary” in Canadian dance is a term that has long defined a Western-based concert genre. While this is changing, the implications continue to be felt throughout the infrastructure for the development of new dance. Our work often bumps up against this and in that process asks: how much can the term contemporary hold? How can it grow and evolve, become more inclusive, responsive and complex in its offerings, for artists, audiences and the sector?
We believe that it is a vital to continue developing fluency in a multiplicity of world views to truly embody the culture of the contemporary. This perspective invites numerous ways of seeing, experiencing and responding to the dancing body, in all its capacities – solitary, social, sexual, political, historical, migratory, communal and ancestral. We believe art forms and practices become diversified by including divergent approaches. Through this kind of inquiry we learn to tell different stories or familiar ones in different ways, create unconventional working methods and drive our questions deeper by attending to systems not in the dominate scope of practice. Throughout all of our diverse activities; programming, performances, partnerships and collaborations we offer this questioning, curiosity, probing, discussion and discourse to the field.
Since its inception in 2007 (non-profit/charitable status established in 2010), Anandam has cultivated works both independently and through dynamic partnerships, presenting innovative choreographies, interdisciplinary collaborations, shared programs, and curated series and festivals. Most recent projects include Cascade, cited by Kathleen Smith at NOW Magazine as one of the top 5 dance shows of 2014, Psychic Choreography (2015), Seismology (2014), Glaciology (2013 - present Toronto and international touring), and Divergent Dances for Windows and Walls (2012). The company has shared its repertoire in venues ranging from traditional to site-specific, large- to small-scale, with audiences in Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Mississauga, Winnipeg, Kolkata, New Delhi, Cape Town, Cologne, Stolezenhagen, and New York.
The company’s interest in alternative contexts has led to an ethos of long-term partnerships and cumulative, multi-year creation and presentation processes that are transformative for ourselves and our partners, our audiences and the potential of architectural spaces, cityscapes and landscapes. This includes The Precipice Project at the Bata Shoe Museum 2010-15, Cascade at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Nuit Blanche 2014, Glaciology on Queen’s Quay West, Nuit Blanche 2015, as well as international touring repertoire such as Glaciology in Cologne 2013 and Cape Town 2014. Likewise, we have produced the Body Brake series through a partnership with Theatre Passe Muraille, using all aspects of the space from stage to backstage spaces, stairwells, balconies, and the bar, to present a wild range of performance in a riotous late-night cabaret. Parallel to our larger production processes, we program a season of activities and shorter works that includes festival activity (Contemporary Circus Arts Festival of Toronto, or CCAFT), workshops, classes, and open rehearsals.
Our deepening interest in relationships between artists and audiences is currently supported by an exciting three-year initiative through the Metcalf Foundation’s Creative Strategies Incubator to examine participatory aesthetics and practices as cultivators of intimacy with audiences and communities. We are the youngest organization in the foundation’s history to be granted this support, and a case study for the returns of significantly investing in younger, smaller organizations working through alternative strategies.
Anandam has received support for the company’s performance projects from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the Toronto Arts Council, the Metcalf Foundation, the Hal Jackman Foundation, DanceWorks CoWorks, Nuit Blanche, Blackwood Gallery, and the CreatiVenture Collective, and has partnered with many other organizations and institutions in Toronto on collaborations, arts education programs, and mentorship initiatives, including: Theatre Passe Muraille, Sampradaya Dance Creations, IMPACT (Indian Martial and Performance Art Collective of Toronto), the Bata Shoe Museum, the Royal Ontario Museum, Casa Loma, Necessary Angel, and Buddies in Bad Times.