Arts: Water Dance!

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Events Use Power of the Arts to Bring Environmental Awareness.

Water.

Particularly in South Florida, it surrounds us and mandates – if not dictates – our lifestyle. It also pervades us, with water making up the majority of the planet and of our own bodies. With the exception of air, it is perhaps the aspect of the environment with which we have the most contact and make the most use of.

Water is also a hot-button public policy issue, from its availability to its purity to growing demand for it – and of course, the potential of it becoming a worldwide threat if the most-alarming global warming/global cooling/climate change zealots turn out to be correct.

Yet, even in a community physically shaped by and dominated by water, many people might not consider it much as long as it flows from faucets and laps poetically against the beautiful shorelines of South Florida, providing the soundtrack to the lives of those blessed to live beside the sea.

A now-national program that originated in South Florida is now seeking to use the arts to bring attention to environmental issues – and finding success with partners from around the entire United States.

Coming together on Saturday, April 12 at 4 p.m. EST are 1500 dancers from across the country to perform a site-specific dance at a river, a bay, a lake, the ocean or any water site nearby. From the University of Alaska to Miami Dade College, from the Dance Engagement Company in California to Bates College in Maine, students from colleges and universities, private dance schools, high schools and elementary schools, and dance companies will unite to celebrate water.

“My desire in creating National Water Dance was to inspire young artists to go beyond the studio and the stage with their art; to connect with the environment and realize the power of art to bring awareness to environmental issues, particularly water,” said National Water Dance founder and artistic director Dale Andree. “Through the internet, National Water Dance has become the community of artists/activists that I hoped it would.”

Founded by artistic director Dale Andree and produced by Daniel Lewis, National Water Dance has been created to bring attention to the power and fragility of the nation’s waterways. Bringing dancers and musicians together from across the country and using dance as a form of social activism is, according to Andree, “a force that can create social change.”

Andree received her BFA from Boston Conservatory of Music and her certification in Laban Movement Analysis from the Laban Institute in NYC. Influenced and inspired by Elaine Summers and May O’Donnell, Andree assisted and danced with the O’Donnell Company and taught at her school. With Elaine Summers, Andree has danced in her improvisational structures and intermedia pieces, as well as created teaching methods for introducing film and dance to students. Additional teaching credits include La Guardia HS in NYC, the Salle Pleyel in Paris, the School of the Paris Opera Ballet, University of Miami, and the New World School of the Arts, among others. A recipient of many grants, Andree is the founding member of the Miami Dance Umbrella and her own company, Mary Street Dance Theatre, which toured the U.S. and South America.

Although the local program was launched in 2011, Andree wanted to see the program reach around the nation.

“I wanted to do it around the country and I wanted to impact the issue of water,” Andree said. “I also wanted young dancers to know their art can affect change. Learning how to use their art to bring awareness to important issues in society is important. My focus has been on the arts and education.”

Andree joked that her focus on water stems from her being a Pisces.

“Actually I’m extremely attracted to water, have always engaged with the environment, love site-specific work and love to bring dancers into the environment – anywhere where they can get a more sensual experience. Water is so essential – that’s one thing we can all agree on.”

Andree said that, as with any venture, success meant finding a community of people around the country with similar perspectives and desires – and that’s what she was able to do. Scores of groups from dozen of states and countless cities are participating in Water Dance 2014.

“It will be so exciting to see dancers from across the nation, talking about our environment and turning those ideas into a symphony of movement across the country,” said Daniel Lewis, also founding Dean of Dance of New World School of the Arts.

The Miami performance of National Water Dance will feature 80 dancers and 50 singers at the Deering Estate at Cutler, as part of their Festival of the Arts, at 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 12. The artists will perform to an original score performed by its composers, Miami musicians Vicki Richards and Jeff Deen. Admission from 3:30 p.m. on is free. Participating schools include New World School of the Arts, South Miami Community Middle School, Arthur and Polly Mays Conservatory of the Arts, RR Moton Elementary School and Miami Dade College/Kendall Campus under the direction of Michelle Grant-Murray, assistant director of the Miami-Dade portion of National Water Dance.

The Deering Estate at Cutler, a Miami-Dade County Park, is located at 16701 SW 72 Avenue in Miami. The 444-acre natural and archeological preserve and historic site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as a center for education, culture and recreati Visit www.deeringestate.org for more information.

“I love reading about news and politics and there is so much divisiveness in the country, but this is something that can bring everyone together,” Andree said.

For more information on National Water Dance, visit www.nationalwaterdance.org.

Additional Florida Event of National Water Dance:

* Free showerheads provided by Earth Ethics Institute of Miami Dade College to anyone who brings in an old showerhead to the main event on April 12. The new showerheads are provided by Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer Department, and is part of their indoor water conservation campaign. For more information on the institute, visit www.earthethicsinstitute.org.

About Michael W Sasser

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