ANIKAYA Dance Theater | Conference of the Birds PDF Print E-mail

ANIKAYA Dance Theater will create a new dance piece based on the Sufi poem The Conference of the Birds with significant collaboration with Muslim communities in Boston

As one of only 11 organizations to receive a Building Bridges Program grant from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA), Boston Center for the Arts will commission ANIKAYA Dance Theater to plan and implement a collaborative, movement-based dramatic work inspired by Farid Uddin Attar’s epic poem The Conference of the Birds in Spring 2018 in the Roberts Studio Theatre at the Calderwood Pavilion on the BCA South End Campus. BCA and ANIKAYA will partner with the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC) to hold workshops with members of Metro-Boston communities, including immigrants and refugees, to gather stories that will be woven into the work’s narrative arc.

Written in the 12th century, The Conference of the Birds has had a vast influence around the globe and has been celebrated for centuries by Muslims in historically diverse, mobile and vibrant regions where ideas, music, poetry and people moved easily across porous borders. Today, borders are defined and refugees and immigrants cross them, often in peril. In collaboration with ISBCC, ANIKAYA seeks to explore the question: “What was your journey, and how do you see yourself reflected at the end of it?” Performances of Conference of the Birds will translate those contemporary stories into dance, generate dialogue and create empathy around the immigrant and refugee experience, and help to build bridges between Muslim and non-Muslim communities in Boston and beyond.

This commission marks a significant movement in BCA’s programming initiatives, emphasizing our commitment to seek out and give voice to stories from our diverse communities. “Art and artists have always played a powerful role in helping us encounter, engage and understand the prominent issues of our time,” said Boston Center for the Arts Chief Programming Officer Wanda Strukus, “We are thrilled to be an incubator for thought-provoking and transformative new work, and to partner with Wendy Jehlen, ANIKAYA, and the ISBCC to amplify underrepresented voices, foster change, and build bridges in our community, in our nation, and in the world.

This project is the only Boston-based recipient of the Building Bridges 2016-2017 Grants Program through the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA), which supports initiatives that use the arts to build empathy and lasting connections between American Muslim and non-Muslim communities. It is readily apparent that the need for such work is more urgent than ever before: a February 2017 report from the Southern Poverty Law Center cites a 197 percent surge in anti-Muslim hate groups in 2016.

“Prejudice and division had a banner year in 2016, but this has only furthered the resolve and ambition of these organizations to advance this critical undertaking to heal our communities,” said Zeyba Rahman, senior program officer of DDFIA’s Building Bridges Program. “This year’s Building Bridges grantees have proposed inventive arts-based solutions to strengthen the social fabric between American Muslims and non-Muslims for the benefit of our nation. Art and culture are among the most powerful forces to remind us that we are more alike than different.”

Outreach in Boston immigrant communities will begin summer of 2017 and will continue through the fall. Performances of Conference of the Birds will take place in April of 2018.

ANIKAYA Dance Theater has been evolving since 1998 under the direction of choreographer Wendy Jehlen. ANIKAYA's mission is to break down the perceived boundaries between people, cultures and art forms. Their work has so far extended to the US, Brazil, Canada, India, Italy, Japan, Mali and Turkey. ANIKAYA weaves together music, dance and storytelling to create works that pull from the full range of the body's communicative capabilities. They incorporate traditional forms, internalizing them and then allowing them to reemerge as part of a new movement vocabulary. The result is work that is resonant of deep-rooted traditions, without being bound to any particular genre, place or practice.

The mission of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC) is to teach and live Islam in America. ISBCC is not only a mosque, but also a dynamic cultural center serving the greater Boston Muslim community. The ISBCC houses a school and a café, and its multi-purpose space is used for educational activities, diversity training and interfaith projects in collaboration with Christian and Jewish leaders to build bridges within the greater Boston community.

The Building Bridges Program is the grant-making arm of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA), which is an extension of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF). Based in New York, the program supports national efforts to advance relationships, increase understanding, and reduce bias between Muslim and non-Muslim communities. For more information, please visit

Boston Center for the Arts is the nexus of the arts in Boston, fostering the development of contemporary visual and performing arts and convening artists and audiences to create, explore and celebrate all creative disciplines. An integral part of the cultural fabric of the city of Boston, Boston Center for the Arts utilizes its historic campus in the vibrant South End to present world-class exhibitions and performances, provide affordable work space, engage cultural consumers throughout the region, and nurture artists with the resources to take risks and develop new art works.

Boston Center for the Arts is generously supported by hundreds of individual donors, businesses and family foundations, including The Barr Foundation and the Klarman Family Foundation in collaboration with the Barr-Klarman Arts Capacity Initiative, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Boston Foundation, The Liberty Mutual Foundation and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

For photos, interviews or more information about Boston Center for the Arts programs, please contact Robin Allen LaPlante, Director of Marketing & Communications at 617.426.3186 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



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