Choreographers Jody Sperling and Eryc Taylor Tackle Climate Change

Choreographers Jody Sperling and Eryc Taylor Tackle Climate Change

How can dance address climate change? Choreographers Jody Sperling and Eryc Taylor seperately attempt to answer this question through two new works mounted this month.

We took a look at how the two projects approach the subject.

A Visual Approach

On Monday, Sperling premiered “Melting Ice/Changing Winds: Dance and Music of Climate Change” — a program that utilizes the kinetic, fabric dance popularized by dancer Louie Fuller to create a stage full of slapping silk that mimics the patterns of wind.

“Wind is the breath of the planet, and though invisible, its swirling rhythms drive the forces of life,” reads a statement about the program, which runs through April 10 at the Center at West Park.

“Ice Cycle,” Jody Sperling. Photo: Filip Wolak.

The project continues Sperling and composer Matthew Burtner’s artistic partnership, which began in 2015 with “Ice Cycle” (the duo’s interpretation of Sperling’s time spent dancing in the Arctic). Presented as part of “Melting Ice/Changing Winds,” the collaborator’s latest piece, “Wind Rose,” draws inspiration from meteorology technology and combines Sperling’s use of fabric with a soundtrack made by Butler from the vocalizations of dancers and music derived from wind data.

“A wind rose is a meteorological tool that graphically represents wind speed and direction at a particular location,” explains the announcement. “This new collaboration creates a unique wind rose in the performance space, sculpting and sounding the airflow so the audience can simultaneously feel, see and hear the dance unfold.”

The result is a visual, sonic and tactile form of eco-exploration.

Combining Dance and Environmental Education

While Sperling’s piece figures predominately on how to visually represent climate, Taylor’s project, titled “EARTH,” veers toward a more active form of environmental education.

Eryc Taylor Dance conceptualized “EARTH” as a full-length, collaborative dance event meant to address global warming. Broken into seven parts, the project (billed as a “wake up call”) includes two original works by Eryc Taylor and five pieces created by past recipients of the company’s New Choreographer Grant.

The pieces, currently in development, will all be featured as part of a workshop series that heralds in the project’s full premiere at the end of 2019. The first of the five workshop presentations debuted last week at Martha Graham Studio Theater with Robert Mark Burke’s “Earth is Created” and will continue through October to conclude with Aaron McGloin’s “Mother nature Sends Warnings.” Works by Gierre Godley, Jordan Ryder and Eryn Renee Young round out the programming.

Pushing the project into a form of environmental activism, the workshops also serve to educate the audience members about recycling, energy conservation and the role of dance in combating climate change.

“Our goal is to transport the audience and convince them to take action,” said Taylor in a statement. “We aim to start a dialogue about what we can do to be better human beings and how to best address global warming.”

Top Image: "Ice Cycles," Jody Sperling. Photo: Steve Soblick.