LEWISTON – Bates Dance Festival presented its annual program of “Different Voices” Thursday evening at Schaeffer Theatre, Bates College, with eight works by choreographers and dancers from Africa, Asia, India and the U.S.

Most moving was “Encounter,” a theatrical piece by Aparna Sindhoor, artistic director of Navarasa Dance Theater, who performed with four male dancers.

Excerpted from a longer piece of the same name, “Encounter” blended classical Indian dance with martial arts and aerial dance, plus drumming, speech and song, in a story of empowerment and disempowerment.

The piece opened and closed with Sindhoor hanging by her knees from a pole at center stage, under interrogation by a soldier. Asked her name, age and domicile, she answered promptly. Asked her husband’s name, she was silent, which created a heavy sense of threat.

In between were songs, storytelling and dancing that was sinuous and strong, evoking both classical and modern forms with raised legs and flexed hands and feet, rippling arms and shoulders and intricate hand articulation.

Introducing the dancing, Sindhoor spoke, “We are starving artists. This doesn’t make us better artists, just sick in the stomach.” Later, she spoke, “I never respond to my own name,” with an indication that torture might follow, and, “Our fight is for food, water, our land, our song, our dance.”

Together with the movement, these lines reinforced a devastating contrast between the humanity and individuality of the central character and her culture, and the depersonalization of her ultimate, and foreshadowed, persecution.

“Correspondances,” choreographed and performed by Kettly Noel (based in Mali) and Nelisiwe Xaba (from South Africa), also used speech, song and props along with movement.

Noel’s and Xaba’s performance was raw, urban, provocative and magnetic. The piece opened with Xaba describing, in voice and movement, her relationship with the various mirrors she encountered each morning.

She and Noel, both in high heels and ultra-mini dresses (sometimes displaying their undergarments), explored the supportive and competitive elements of women’s friendship, with dancing that included a near-violent “bump” dance session.

Also, Sunon Wachirawarakarn performed the solo “Catch” by Pichet Klunchun, founder of Pichet Klunchun Dance Company, which integrates Thai classical dance with contemporary aesthetics.

The program, which was repeated on Friday evening, also included “A Group of Determined Gentlewomen” by Onye Ozuzu, performed by Ozuzu and Lauren Beale; “Immaterial Sensibility” by Catherine Cabeen; “Isinqala” by Mamela Nyamza; “To Stray” by Jennifer Archibald, performed by four female dancers; and “Glimmer52” by Lisa Race.

Some pieces were more effective than others, and many would have benefited from targeted program notes to provide greater context for interpretation and appreciation of the artists’ intentions.

Altogether, “Different Voices” provided an exciting evening of thought-provoking and diverse theater.

Jennifer Brewer is a freelance writer, teacher, musician and dancer who lives in Saco.