Over one shoulder was the black strap to my purple and bestickered violin case and over the other shoulder was the strap to my small backpack full of notebooks and pens for taking notes. Around me were the small, old, stone houses of Molyvos, Lesvos that give the town a feeling of a benevolent grandparent and a picturesque quality. I was walking with a group of other Earthbounders to the forest that was just a five-minute walk from where we were staying to rehearse our performance for the COY12 and COP22.
As soon as we entered the forest the air immediately felt different: the ground which was covered with a layer of dusky brown pine needles muffled the sounds made by our feet and the gnarled evergreens that hung over us seemed to be curious about what such a large group of people was doing under their branches. We settled by a picnic bench where the ground was flat enough for the dancers to move uninhibited. I perched on top of the picnic table which gave me the feeling of an audience member looking down on the stage waiting for the show to start.
Since we didn’t have any choreography yet, Sarita and I began playing the song that we were planning on starting the performance with, while the dancers messed around until they got into a groove of something that worked. Watching each dancer, I could see their individual style come through; some of them danced like water, joints becoming irrelevant and fluid, while others, more awkward, like children learning to walk, mimicked the movements of others, slowly learning how to move their bodies with fluid grace.
Each dancer felt like an extension of the forest; their bare feet connecting to the needled soil and their arms stretching up like branches searching for the sunshine. As they moved in unison across our makeshift stage their sweeping arms looked like a flock of birds flying together and their stamping feet like deer running along their path.
The dance started to take form from the blunt direction of Sarita, but also from the inspiration that the dancers drew from their surroundings; their movements informed and drawn from the trees. Practicing a performance dedicated to preserving our planet in a forest where you can feel the earth below your feet is powerful, meaningful, and deep. The dancers embodied that deepness – you can see in their movements that their natural surroundings empowered them on a subconscious level, giving their dance more grace than it would have had if they had created it in an enclosed room without sunshine and dirt.
Our environment matters. From creating art to simply eating breakfast, your physical place in the world matters. Toast simply tastes better under the morning sun and dances are just more beautiful when they are created in the environment they are supposed to represent. Or, in my case, music sounds better when the notes can float in the open air and mingle with the noises of the natural world. The irony of this situation hasn’t escaped me. We need the healthy environment to survive but, in advocating this fact, we found out that we also need a healthy environment to fully deliver the message.
Written by Kayla Fennell