By Christina Catanese
This weekend, the Schuylkill Center will be presenting Remembering Water’s Way by Dance Exchange, the first site-specific dance event that the Center has commissioned in over a decade.
Dance Exchange is a DC-area arts organization that has been one of the Schuylkill Center’s LandLab artists in residence over the past year. The goal of the LandLab residency is for artists to engage audiences in the processes of ecological stewardship through scientific investigation and artistic creation. So we tasked these performers to also create art-based installations that prevent or remediate environmental damage, and it’s exciting to see how they have responded to the challenge.
Dance Exchange’s work engaging individuals and communities in dancemaking and creative practices is driven by these four questions:
Who gets to dance? Where is the dance happening? What is the dancing about? Why does it matter?
When Dance Exchange was selected for this residency, I was excited to discover what the answers to these questions might be in the context of our work connecting people with nature.
The culmination of Dance Exchange’s research and artmaking will take place on October 13th and 14th with animated hikes through our grounds that follow the story of water. Exploring ponds, streams, erosion-prevention efforts, and impacts from recent storm events, these hour-long experiences will weave together performance, installation, science engagements, and more. Think guided nature walk punctuated by performed dance in the landscape, with led opportunities to interpret information (both scientific and sensory) into your own body and in collaboration with others.
One of Dance Exchange’s core beliefs is that anybody can and should dance, which is why the dancers not only perform for the audience, but get everyone moving. (Even those who claim to have two left feet.) The artists guide us through ways to embody the scientific concepts that we’re learning about. They also value intergenerational exchange—so all ages are welcome! This walk will give people across generations the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of—and connection to—their local environment and community. Through this immersive experience, participants will activate their senses and observation skills through an artistic and ecological approach to discovery. Activities are designed to move participants along a path of recognition, appreciation, and stewardship of the environment. There will even be ways in which the performers will contribute to our land restoration work through the performance.
The title, Remembering Water’s Way, comes from a recognition that the land has a memory of how water has flowed through it, and an acknowledgement of how we can reconsider our relationship to the land to be guided by water rather than trying to fight it. Over the course of the walk, many stories of water will be explored (locally on the Schuylkill Center’s grounds as well as in the context of our regional watershed), including the impact of recent rains and ever-more intense storms that our region has experienced this summer.
As a dancer and choreographer myself, I’m excited by how we can use our bodies in nature to reframe and activate a site. By positioning human bodies in the landscape and experiencing it with all senses, perhaps we can start to see and feel ourselves as slightly more connected to nature, rather than separate.
So, my answers to the Dance Exchange questions so far are 1) everyone; 2) anywhere; 3) information from many realms outside of dance; and 4) because it helps bring us closer to that content, and to each other. But you may have your own answers (and more questions) after experiencing their work.
Please join us for Remembering Water’s Way this weekend. The walk will be offered four times over the course of the weekend, at 11am and 2pm on both Saturday, October 13 and Sunday, October 14. The guided walk will descend some elevation; good walking shoes are recommended. Keep an eye on the Schuylkill Center’s website and social media for any weather-related changes.