Fellow & Publication Contributor

Working with the Environment through Dance and Film

*Photo by Natalie Deryn Johnson*

The LEIMAY Fellowship is supplying me with the space and resources to create the second film in the environmental dance film series, Under Review. On December 4, 2017, the President drastically reduced the size of two national monuments in Utah to allow for oil and gas development: Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. This reduction put 25 other national monuments at risk for industrial development; coal mining, logging, oil and gas extraction, and commercial development, destroying the already limited untouched wildlife and nature in this country. 

As we continue to remove ourselves further from nature, and our political house advocates against making environmental changes, we have become ignorant to our role and relationship with our planet. Our species is the only species that has the cognitive ability to measure influence and the capacity for larger change, yet we ignore scientific data and the Earth’s reaction to our presence. We have the understanding to know we are harming the environment and we have the ability to do something about it. Therefore, we should inspire one another to make change where change is necessary. Preservation of our public lands is a necessary battle in the overall Climate Change war. 

*Behind the scenes for Under Review: Gold Butte, Gold Butte National Monument June 2018*

Under Review: Katahdin retells the story of “The Giving Tree” through dance to showcase our modern day relationship with trees and their paper products. I am using this story for our society to become more mindful about how we manipulate the landscape and for us to recognize the consequences for ourselves and our kin. 

As a lifelong outdoor enthusiast, a world traveler, and an artist with supporting degrees in Biology and Environmental Science, I’ve always looked towards the natural world for inspiration. Whether capturing it on film, or creating live site-specific performance, nature is the place I go to jumpstart an idea or when I’m stuck in a process. I find myself searching for  idiosyncratic relationships between nature and human beings. For example, I’m drawn to how vines and roots take over architecture, cracking the paint off the exterior and softening the floor with soil. Or I’ll look back at scientific research and how it can be translated into movement by showing how canyons are created through natural weathering of wind, water, and snow and how trees communicate through their underground root system to share nutrients and send messages of danger or pollination. I am interested in how dance can enhance the environment rather than distract from it. This means becoming more intentional with movement phrases and intensifying textures through the lens of a camera. 

*Scouting for Under Review: Katahdin, Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument September 2018*

I have found myself becoming frustrated with how our culture is attempting to combat climate change by instilling fear through showing forest fires, rising sea levels, destructive hurricanes. These all are important facts to share with our public, but I’m interested in what if we showed the beauty our land already holds? What if we made these sweeping landscapes that cover 15% of American land widely available for viewing for free? And what if we used emotional storytelling and the exquisiteness of movement through dance to trigger a reaction and a call to action from our public? Maybe then we can come together on a local to global level to create solutions for climate change. I am seeking ways to inspire through beauty rather than motivating through fear. Through my years of artistic creation, living in NYC and traveling around the world, it has become clear to me that not all people have access to distant travels and taking time to be surrounded by nature. Capturing the landscape footage of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument allows the monument to be available to all. We are bringing this film onto the screen and into the laps of people that may be too old to experience hiking, may be financially restricted, or may be living on the other side of the world. This film brings together cultures and communities around the world through a shared admiration of our earth. 

Though my team and I are working with Monuments and Parks across the nation, it is important for me to become involved on a local level. Climate Change is an opportunity for our cities to become involved in creative ways regarding how we get our public to experience nature on a day to day level. It is my belief that we as a society wont fight for what we don’t see. What attracted me to the LEIMAY Fellowship is the work and involvement they have with the New York Restoration Project. Merging the arts with these gardens will assist in drawing a wider audience to cultivate different experiences in nature. Being surrounded in a concrete jungle has made my appreciation for nature that more prominent, which also has created a strong fire in me to fight for everyone to have opportunities outdoors. How you can help is if there is a community space in your neighborhood you would like to see transformed into a garden, you may contact New York Restoration Project and they will assist you in the steps to transforming this space. 

*Still from Under Review: Gold Butte, the first film in the Under Review series*

Watch the full first film

Under Review: Gold Butte