Hema Patel is 18 years old and a senior at Southwest High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is Turtle Mountain Ojibwe and Eagle Clan. She has danced Classical indian Bharatanatyam with the Ragamala School of Dance for nearly six years.
By Hema Patel
Auntie told me the piece would be hypnotic. Mom told me it would be moving in a way she didn’t yet understand. The Ordway’s official website told me it would be an interwoven mesh of story, dance, moving image, and sound.
But the piece and dancers themselves told me they were my story. Mesmerizing, rolling, and hinting at an end somewhere but holding the present as most important. With a strength and resilience, the dancers certainly wove a world around us in the audience. The piece was so transfixing that it was even a challenge, deciding what aspect of the piece to focus on and feel.
I studied the movers and their spiraling limbs and I suddenly thought I could hear dragonfly wings beating, reminding me of the ones I’d met in the North Dakota grassess of my childhood. But when I focused on the dragonflies, I saw spokes instead of spirals in the dancers movements and then I saw two swinging braids on the head of one dancer making their way across the stage with a captivating grace. Every time I centered my gaze on the stage I felt a different energy, pulsing and ever-changing. It felt like life was being pumped into the piece’s every intention, so quickly my senses were overwhelmed in a wonderful way.
WEAVE gave me space. It made me rethink sense perception, and what it means to immerse yourself in what you are experiencing. I left the theatre in a sort of daze, slightly confused as to what I had seen versus what I had imagined. The piece transported me to memories but I didn’t know if they were real or not, like maybe memory is tangled with imagination and what we experience is pulled and pushed together by what we see, taste, smell, hear, and feel. It was a reflective space for me, where I was immersed in the dancer’s art but also immersed in my own mind, thinking of my ancestors and our history.
I hold such admiration for everyone who contributed to the success of the piece. From the visionary lighting to the soft sequential spiraling movements to the silvery culottes adorning one dancer, I could tell Rosy left no stone unturned in the creation of this event. She crafted a gathering, and framed every second as a new experience. The performers were trained to not be hurried, to slow down and find a constant space in the turmoil of now and 500 years ago. They understood the freedom of taking one’s time, and it reminded me to slow down too.
Simply watching the audience itself was entertaining; a collection of Native figures, friends, and family. Watching familiar faces, long haired heads, and bits of beadwork passing by on their way to their seats was a reminder of all the support found in Indian Country, spanning generations. And the dancers themselves, a variety of queer, feminist, Indigenous, transgender, and people of color artists, took the space so eloquently - drifting in at the beginning and out at the end but in the middle having such presence. The piece tells a story of resilience, the courageous dancers taking up the space of the huge Ordway theatre, dancing within inches of us, the audience, without making any sort of acknowledgement. It was a healing type of environment, a slow process of saying that despite what history we have and what betrayal marks that history, we are dancing on Dakota land, embracing Native America and the strong peoples who are still here.