Quantcast

Watch: How to Dance Like a Glacier

Climate
GLACIER: A Climate Change Ballet. Rob Cannon

By Jeremy Deaton

Eighteenth century French choreographer Jean-Georges Noverre once wrote, "A fine picture is but the image of nature; a finished ballet is nature herself." Noverre was arguing for the immediacy of dance. Twenty-first century American choreographer Diana Movius took his words literally.


In GLACIER: A Climate Change Ballet, Movius depicts the slow melt of the Arctic with stirring dance and vivid multimedia accompaniment. In the spirit of Noverre, who revolutionized ballet through his focus on emotional honesty, Movius captures the pain and heartache lurking at the ends of the Earth.

Climate Change Ballet youtu.be

"What does climate change feel like? It's mostly considered an analytical issue, something where you have to think far in the future," she said in an interview during the show's September run in San Francisco. "Is there a way that performance can make climate change into an immediate issue that you actually feel in your heart instead of know in your mind?"

A climate policy analyst by day and choreographer by night, Movius is well-suited to craft a ballet about the melting Arctic. Dancers clad in white mimic glaciers and ice floes as they crack, splinter and vanish into the sea. They leap and twirl to the music of Max Richter, David Lang and Andrew Thomas, while images of the melting Arctic, stitched together by artist Robin Bell, flash against the backdrop. GLACIER is now playing at Dance Loft on 14, the Washington, DC dance studio Movius founded.

"The great thing about working with these dancers is they can really take an idea and make it their own, and they can tap into their own life experience and their own emotions," Movius said. She told members of her troupe, MOVEIUS, to imagine losing a loved one as they danced.

GLACIER: A Climate Change Ballet. Rob Cannon

Movius premiered GLACIER in 2015. "I was looking for a way to translate climate change into dance," she said. "After watching several specials on the melting of polar ice caps and the different ways that ice responds to warming, I realized that you can actually translate the type of movement that ice makes in response to a warming world into dance.

"If you want to dance like a glacier, you have a lot of options," she said. "You could move really slowly. You could slowly disappear and try to fool the audience into thinking that you were some place, and now you're not. You could move really fast like meltwater. You could crack. You could float. There are lots of ways to translate that into movement."

Movius nearly falls into the same trap as other artists. Too many cast the steady rise in temperature as a threat to nature rather than an urgent danger for humans, one that will spark resource wars, mass migrations and political unrest. Or, worse yet, artists focus on the political controversy around climate change instead of its looming perils. Works featured at the recent Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, for example, included a giant polar bear and a neon sign that read "Climate change is real."

Artwork commissioned for the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, September, 2018. Nexus Media

Artwork commissioned for the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, September, 2018. Nexus Media

Movius narrowly avoids these pitfalls. Yes, this is a story about nature—there is an extended scene featuring a polar bear—but GLACIER does more than deploy a few well-worn tropes about climate change. Dancers convey a sense of angst and agony as the world melts away.

"An audience member can come into the performance and leave having actually felt climate change," Movius said. "I think that's a sense of poignancy, of sadness, of watching something beautiful disappear."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Individual standing in Hurricane Harvey flooding and damage. Jill Carlson / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Allegra Kirkland, Jeremy Deaton, Molly Taft, Mina Lee and Josh Landis

Climate change is already here. It's not something that can simply be ignored by cable news or dismissed by sitting U.S. senators in a Twitter joke. Nor is it a fantastical scenario like The Day After Tomorrow or 2012 that starts with a single crack in the Arctic ice shelf or earthquake tearing through Los Angeles, and results, a few weeks or years later, in the end of life on Earth as we know it.

Read More Show Less
A pregnant woman works out in front of the skyline of London. SHansche / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Air pollution particles that a pregnant woman inhales have the potential to travel through the lungs and breach the fetal side of the placenta, indicating that unborn babies are exposed to black carbon from motor vehicles and fuel burning, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Teen activist Greta Thunberg delivered a talking-to to members of Congress Tuesday during a meeting of the Senate Climate Change Task Force after politicians praised her and other youth activists for their efforts and asked their advice on how to fight climate change.

Read More Show Less
Ten feet of water flooded 20 percent of this Minot, North Dakota neighborhood in June 2011. DVIDSHUB / CC BY 2.0

By Jared Brey

When Hurricane Michael tore through the Florida panhandle last October, it killed at least 43 people, caused an estimated $25 billion in damage and destroyed thousands of homes.

Read More Show Less
A protestor holds up her hand covered with fake oil during a demonstration on the U.C. Berkeley campus in May 2010. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The University of California system will dump all of its investments from fossil fuels, as the Associated Press reported. The university system controls over $84 billion between its pension fund and its endowment. However, the announcement about its investments is not aimed to please activists.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Forest fire continues to blaze in Indonesesia on Sept. 18. WAHYUDI / AFP / Getty Images

Nearly 200 people have been arrested in Indonesia over their possible connections to the massive wildfires raging in the nation's forest, officials said this week.

Read More Show Less

By Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

World leaders have a formidable task: setting a course to save our future. The extreme weather made more frequent and severe by climate change is here. This spring, devastating cyclones impacted 3 million people in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Record heatwaves are hitting Europe and other regions — this July was the hottest month in modern record globally. Much of India is again suffering severe drought.

Read More Show Less
Covering Climate Now / YouTube screenshot

By Mark Hertsgaard

The United Nations Secretary General says that he is counting on public pressure to compel governments to take much stronger action against what he calls the climate change "emergency."

Read More Show Less