How Might Artistic Dance Works Increase Audience’s Awareness of the Urgent Need to Preserve Natural Environments?
Vieira, A.P. How Might Artistic Dance Works Increase Audience’s Awareness of the Urgent Need to Preserve Natural Environments? Oral presentation and abstract published at the Proceedings of the Performance Studies International Conference, Melbourne, Australia. 2016.
Recently, some artists’ endeavors are creative engagement in dance performances, at natural spaces, as critical responses to ecological issues and challenges such as pollution, natural resources depletion including clean water decrease, global warming, species extinction (e.g., Fernandes, 2014; Sebiane-Serrano, 2013; Stewart, 2010; Stone, 2015). According to Stone (2015),
This study adopts the tendency discussed by Stone (2015) as I seek to explore the question: How might artistic dance works increase audience’s awareness of the urgent need to preserve natural environments? My search aimed on shedding light on the issues surrounding ways in which performance intersects with climate and environment change. The paper presentation relates to the 22nd Performance Studies International Conference “Performance Climates” theme because it discusses interfaces between dance critical ecoperformances, ecological awareness and natural environments.
My efforts are to create and share with the large audience ecocritical performances in order to mediate the dynamic process of bodily discussing ecological issues with people stimulating their consciousness and sensitivity. I use the term ecocritical performances as it involves the ability of actively and reflectively distinguishing what is appropriate from what is less appropriate in our interactions with other people, nature and animals. I strive to conduct artistic research as suggested by Somers (2011), as a “deep-ecocritical practice [that] accompany an often ludic sensibility and a developing awareness of a variety of effects of practices on the material, immaterial, atmospheric, audio and visual aspects of landscape in which we dwell.” (p. 291) From my own artistic experience in dance, my argument is that there are others performers and researchers who believe in self-change and environmental sustainability and, therefore, want to persevere in the quest for ecological balance.
The artistic research evolved into two performances, “Margo” and “Karvo”, both informed by embodiment of the ‘really alive” space poetics (an approach I have developed and explain it better later in this paper), the somatic-performative approach (Fernandes, 2014) and structured improvisation. The performances, under my direction and interpretation, had a fluid configuration based on the respective environments where they were performed. Process and product intertwined while the performances progressed as I dynamically explored and interacted with space – considered as a co-dancer. Data includes my journals about my perception of the performance and also the film and pictures taken. It was analyzed through a qualitative method, Bond and Richard’s (2005) experiential inquiry.
The Santa Barbara river and waterfalls (there are two waterfalls, the big and the small) are located 25 km away from the city of Cavalcante, Goias, Brazil – on the north side of the national park Chapada dos Veadeiros. With 10.000 inhabitants, Cavalcante lies 320 km north of Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. Cavalcante also surrounds the Kalunga Historical Site, where descendents of African slaves, called Kalunga, are still living to this day without too much contact with the modern world. The Santa Bárbara Waterfall is located at the Engenho II settlement of the Kalungas.
Engenho II settlement of the Kalungas
The Kalunga was made into a reservation by the Federal Government to these people who were fugitives from the gold mines of Goias state. Kalungas lived isolated from society until 1970, when they were accidentally discovered by engineers who wanted to build a hydropower plant at this location.
The second performance, “Karvo”, was created to explore the fragility of the ‘Cerrado’ land surrounding the big Santa Barbara waterfall, considered one of the most beautiful and crystal clear in Brazil. (figure 3)
Participating into a dialogue with the Kalunga people changed the way I had first planed to do the performances. Rather than searching for the best time and place to perform, I would allow myself to be taken by the feelings and bodily sensations of the moment – that is, the perceived encounter with nature would be the initiator and ‘advisor’ of the performance itself, telling where, how and what to perform. Through my desire to explore my own direct experiences with the landscape, native people and nature, I reached out to the field (the trail to the waterfall) with the companion of a Kalunga guide.
As I walked to the first waterfall (the small one), whose nickname is ‘Santa Barbarinha’, and exchanged more thoughts, laughter, smiles and ideas with the Kalunga guide, I realized that one can strengthen the relation between knowledge and action by foregrounding lived experience itself as a valid basis for both practical artistic action and theorizing. One can never learn about how to do and make critical ecoperformances only through abstract theories; we need to live nature if we want it to be our co-performer. Furthermore, one could wonder: Did I break an ethical boundary that ‘should’ exist between researcher and participant (the Kalunga guide)? I do not believe so. My body feels still thrilled from the generosity of all Kalunga people, particularly the guide, who gave me their precious time, taught me meaningful stories, and who shared with me their emotions, bodily sensations, thoughts, imaginations, hopes, and interactions. This anecdote from my research journal reveals some of my insights:
The tremendous three kilometers hiking trail was made through dirt terrain, hills and flower fields. At the first small waterfall, Santa Barbarinha, I made the Yoga ‘Sun Salutation’ on the huge stones surrounding the water.
I repeated the ‘Sun Salutation’ many times, as the energy flowing inside my body gave place to a ‘poetic of transformation’ through creative movements and pauses. From these moments, I had learned and suggest now that by approaching transformation as metamorphosis of the holistic performative body, a focus on what I call corpoetic – corporality + poetic may be a sustainable mode of living and creating critical ecoperformances in and through dance.
“As I hold my breathing diving into the water in that new environment
Preserved natural environment at the at the Santa Barbarinha waterfall
I consider this first stop, at the Santa Barbarinha waterfall, my ‘please to meet you’ salutation to that stunning place, and the moment I was asking for permission to do my artistic work there. I really took my time and stayed there for more than one hour. The Kalunga guide patiently waited for me. I did not want to stop that delightful state of being with/in nature that brought a memory deep within my consciousness (the aquatic world into my mom’s belly?), but the journey had to continue till the big waterfall – Santa Barbara.
The performer is about to jump into the water.
Floating, diving, trying to jump and to turn inside the water. My performative self became an evolving entity, continuously constructed and reconstructed in relationship to my inner life intimately connected to the astonishing sub-aquatic environment.
Beyond the sensuous experience, by analyzing the films, which recorded the performance – one I made with my gopro camera, and the other made by my colleague photographer (figure 8) – I realized the pleasure on my face during the dives expresses an aesthetic appreciation of the physical attributes of the aquatic world: different colors, shapes and sizes of the stones and rocks, the white sand, the green-blue water, the splendorous green trees surrounding the water fall. My hope is that the desire I feel when I watch the film recordings – to care and protect this fragile and at the same time strong resource and environment – will be shared by other viewers when they will be edited into videoarts.
Stones, rocks, white sand and clear water
Warm hues at the cold water
On our way back to the Kalunga settlement, we decided to take a different trail. As we arrived at a totally burned area of the Cerrado, I became certain the other performance site was there.
The second performance is “Karvo”, which was danced on the fired ‘Cerrado’ land. ‘Cerrado’ is a savannah-like ecosystem that covers a fifth of Brazil’s territory. Despite the adaptive characteristic of Cerrado vegetation to fire, frequent fires have harmful effects on this ecosystem. These fires compromise the natural heritage of the protected areas, requiring constant monitoring. Indeed, climate change has impacted this environment in such a way that it has altered the frequency and intensity of the ‘Cerrado’ disturbances, including wildfires.
It is shocking to see the black land so close to the green-blue river and waterfalls. As I started moving barefoot over a bed of charcoal, my body feels pain (although the charcoal is cold, its texture is unpleasant and uncomfortable to my skyn). Strength and courage guide my gestures and moves, as my movements become much faster than the ones I made diving. Some angriness is coupled with fear; but I trust my embodied intuitive knowledge. Feelings of togetherness with earth inspire my improvised movements, as my emotional state changes so quickly. I do not feel peaceful anymore; my desire is to cry and to embrace the Cerrado – in a a sense of seeking to connect with nature in a way that we become one. From this inner feeling and sensation, I was able to spread into outer space with much more connectedness. The dynamics between me and the environment was key to build that bridge, which gave, to my point of view, a dreamlike quality to this dance performance – this happened because the environment became so “alive” to me, and I experienced it differently from ordinary reality.
Burning at diving
This study reveals my search, as a researcher-artist for shedding light on the issues surrounding ways in which performance intersects with climate and environment change. The sensory pleasure derived from the colors and the affirmation of being in a different environment at the waterfalls changed completely when I reached the burned Cerrado. I hope the videoart to be made will impact the audience as this contrasting lived experience affected me.
My wish is that the artistic story/performance about the Santa Barbara waterfall and its surrounding Cerrado that will be shared through my body, may be treated as recommendations for ecological acting. In our praxis, in bringing life and nature (in)to our performative narratives (in this case, the videoarts), we are recommending a certain way of standing in a sustainable and respectful manner in our world.
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