Environment

On Earth Day, Dancers and Poets Will Join Forces to Plant Seeds of Action (Video)

The National Water Dance uses the power of art to inspire climate action.

On April 22, 1970, a Dead Orange march wound its way through downtown Miami. On people’s minds that day was air pollution, saving the Everglades and sewage in the waterways.

It was Miami’s first Earth Day.

Since then, some positive changes have come: The Clean Air Act passed. Everglades restoration became a thing. The Miami Beach sewage outfall pipe was closed.

Today there’s an even greater sense of urgency about the environment. Wild animal species on land and in the seas are declining precipitously, leading to extinctions. Carbon emissions have increased 2.4 times, causing a rise in temperatures and rising sea levels as sea ice melts. The Everglades is threatened by saltwater intrusion, pollution and encroaching development. And sewage spills continue from leaky pipes and stormwater pumps.

Given all this, can Earth Day be a day of celebration in 2018? And where can we turn to for hope?

Artists say, look to them. In Miami, dancers and poets are coming together in the sublime light of the beach this month in celebration—and also in hope.

More than 70 dancers, musicians and singers gathered to dance for water at the 2nd National Water Dance, at the Deering Estate on Biscayne Bay, Miami, April 2016.

"Dance can be so many things," says Dale Andree, founder and artistic director of the National Water Dance that will be performed April 14 at the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center on Key Biscayne. Andree grew up around water and says she has always felt close to nature. But it was dance that brought her to a deeper connection and a quest to express that connection through movement.

Andree believes art-in-the-environment is a powerful draw. Her transformative moment came in 1983 with Christo’s Surrounded Islands, an art installation that wrapped Biscayne Bay spoil islands in pink fabric. The artist created a scene that drew the eye and moved the spirit to appreciate the natural beauty in our midst where the “luminous pink color of the shiny fabric was in harmony with the tropical vegetation of the uninhabited verdant islands, the light of the Miami sky and the colors of the shallow waters of Biscayne Bay.”

Andrew Holmes performs a celebratory dance of water performed on stand up paddle boards as part of Liquid Flux, an hour-long site-specific event for the 2016 National Water Dance on the San Diego Bay inlet of NTC Park in Point Loma, California; choreographed by San Diego Director of National Water Dance Lara Segura. (image: Sue Brenner)

Andree created her first site-specific performances with the Florida Waterways Dance Project while she was still a dance instructor at the New World School of the Arts. She later founded NWD Projects, a Miami-based dance production company that created the National Water Dance, an international celebration that now features 1,500 dancers performing site-specific dances at rivers, bays, lakes and ocean shores throughout the U.S. and Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

The National Water Dance also has a poetic element, with students from Miami and Hawaii schools contributing poems about water.

Keshet Dance, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Representing the water crisis in New Mexico, Keshet Dance has partnered with the New Mexico Water Collaborative to show movement in a specific location that celebrates the collaboration between various stakeholders to install an onsite wastewater treatment system and reusing the recycled water to support an urban green space. (image: Ben Wayman)

Dancers from Conchita Espinosa Academy and South Miami Community Middle School will join professional dancers, including the IFE-ILE Afro-Cuban Dance Company, on a sandbar at Crandon Beach on Key Biscayne for the dance. The music will come from an original percussion score created by Brandon Cruz, director of the South Florida Center for Percussive Arts.

Andree hopes to stir audience members to dance, too, as they feel the rhythm in the pulsing of the waves, the flapping of birds’ wings, and the ocean breezes on their skin. In time, these deeper connections can lead toward action, she believes.

Belhaven University, Ross Barnett Reservoir in Madison County, Mississippi (image: Emily Davis)

"You have to move people first to care, to connect people in a deeper way, and then the next steps will happen," Andree says.

This year, take a day to celebrate Planet Earth. Dance on the beach. Make a connection to water, sky and earth. Then go out and fight for it so we may all have something to celebrate on future Earth Days.

Dancers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa at the Manoa Stream on the campus. (image: Christine Maxwell)

The National Water Dance takes place at 4pm, Saturday, April 14, at the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center in Crandon Park, Key Biscayne. 

April is also National Poetry Month and the O, Miami Poetry Project has several nature-inspired activities planned, including “Ocean Stanzas,” where Miami-Dade students visiting the Douglas Nature Center will write short ocean- or nature-inspired poems.

Chattanooga Dance Projects, Chatanooga, Tennessee.

At Matheson Hammock Park there will be a guided session of “Deep Listening” to connect the senses to the surrounding environment. Participants will be asked to create a poem or meditation, which will be woven into a collective text. There’s also a sensory forest walk.

For more information on more nature-inspired O, Miami Poetry events, visit www.omiami.org.

Watch a video of the National Water Dance Deering Estate Final:

NWD Deering Estate Final from daleandreeon Vimeo.

An earlier version of this article first appeared in Biscayne Times. Reprinted with permission.

Blanca Mesa is a contributor to Biscayne Times.