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About this Piece

100 Seconds to Midnight is a new contemporary dance project choreographed by Achinta S. McDaniel for Blue13 Dance Company. The piece draws inspiration from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ infamous Doomsday Clock, a metaphorical countdown to indicate humanity’s proximity to global catastrophe caused by climate change, nuclear weapons, and other human-made disasters. 100 Seconds to Midnight is rooted in doomsday as experienced by those who identify as South Asian, including intersectional identities and histories. “Doom” and “doomsday” show up differently for the Global Majority who have historically, and are still, constantly faced with threats of annihilation. Achinta S. McDaniel embodies the Doomsday Clock metaphor to unveil cyclical South Asian/American experiences of trauma and the expectation of impending loss.

100 Seconds to Midnight examines these themes in a triptych interrogating the erasure of AAPINH people in the US historically, revealing the continued dark legacy of colonization on the diaspora, and women specifically. The piece is distinctly contemporary, subverting the fossilized kingdom of the classical: ballet and Kathak, while rejecting monolithic portrayals of Indianness and defying equations of contemporaneity with whiteness and Eurocentric dance. The work is presented through three movements which revile misogyny, examine generational effects of colonization, and interrogate women’s duty, tradition, and assimilation.

Movement I: Vishwas is a statement on patriarchy and Hindu nationalism’s danger to secular women’s freedom. Set to Indian American composer Reena Esmail’s live orchestral work Vishwas, the piece explores the life of 16th century Indian poet Meera Bai, who rejected social conventions in devotion to Krishna. McDaniel employs the Bai story to explore South Asian women’s experiences navigating faith, duty, and the burden of “tradition” from Indian and white/western perspectives. The incorporation of Indian instrumentation including Tabla into a western orchestral ensemble asks audiences to reconsider preconceived notions of classical music.

Movement II: 1947 examines the year the Doomsday Clock was created, which was, remarkably, also the year of Indian independence, marked by the bloody partition of India and Pakistan. This movement explores the fear and panic that followed Britain’s sudden and deliberately cruel exit from the subcontinent, which killed over one million people, and displaced more than ten million along religious lines. Accompanied by audio accounts from survivors, the work is an honest take on the events surrounding the partition. 1947 uses contemporary dance, including Kathak-derived footwork, to comment on forced migration, islamophobia, and inherited, intergenerational hate.

Movement III: Midnight is a comment on the present state of the planet: war, climate change, populism, forced birth, and gun violence, predominantly perpetrated by the “first world” United States where we reside. Midnight investigates the so-called assimilation of Asian Americans, who face doom in the form of violence and white supremacy on a regular and generational basis. McDaniel correlates current threats to abortion and women’s rights, LGBTQ+ experiences with historical oppression, and the Global Majority’s seemingly endless fight for inclusion, from Meera Bai’s era to modernity. Midnight forces audiences to reflect on the impact of generational trauma and inherited biases as we navigate increasingly dangerous political and social climates.