Regulars and Shorts, Shall We Dance

Shall We Dance?

By Amy Brunvand

Global Water Dances: Dancing for clean water everywhere.
by Amy Brunvand

In her book Body and Earth: An Experiential Guide, Andrea Olsen says when you meet a river you should ask it questions: Where do you start and where do you end? Who puts things in you? Who joins your journey? Whom do you join? What is your relationship to humans?

Another way to communicate with water is via the physicality of dance. Amanda Sowerby, a professor of dance at Weber State University, has been thinking a lot about water and dancing lately because she is helping to organize a Salt Lake City performance of Global Water Dances. People at nearly 60 sites around the world are helping to bring awareness to water as a precious resource and to give thanks for its transformative qualities.

“It’s so interesting that we’ve been dealing with the drought and now we have too much water,” says Sowerby. “It’s woven into our daily lives, the lack of it, the abundance of it.”

At each site, a choreographer starts with a set of instructions based on Laban movement motifs (Laban is a method for documenting human movement, used primarily as a device for recording choreography) that tell the story of water —become the wave, eddy, splash the water outward. Dancers adapt these instructions to create their own unique performance which is live-streamed online so that the global performances become a single shared performance or, as Sowerby puts it, “a big neighborhood.”

She sees this as a way to bring art, environmental awareness and community awareness in a site-specific perfor­mance, “and also, the idea of people doing simultaneous work in movement that gets interpreted in different bodies and different locations.”

Sowerby is collaborating on Global Water Dances with Andrea Malouf, Director of the SLCC Community Writing Center and dancer Meghan Durham-Wall. They have recruited dance students and community members to perform, and are gathering water words as well as water movement. “We’ve set up displays with water cards. We encourage people to write six words about water. We’ll pick them up and they will be at the site for the performance so passersby can see community thoughts about water,” says Sowerby.

If you come to Memory Grove on June 20 you can watch the dance by the water (though not actually in the water, which would violate park regulations), and if you feel inspired you can even participate by dancing the part of falling rain.

“It will be happening rain or shine, small-or-large amount of people,” says Sowerby. “People can just come by and see it, or if they can’t get to the site they can log on and watch us and the other performances. But the star of the show is the water. It’s us bringing awareness through art to this subject matter. We really do want to bring attention to water.”

Global Water Dances

Memory Grove Park, Salt Lake City

June 20, 2015, 12:15 PM

Amy Brunvand is a dance enthusiast and a U of Utah librarion.

This article was originally published on May 31, 2015.