“We need systemic change on a personal, public and political level.” – Dale Andree
People will be motivated to action when they feel connected to a cause. Dale Andree along with 1000’s of others have been creating an experience that does this at scale. It’s called The National Water Dance (NWD).
The focus of NWD is our climate crisis. Andree and the organizations that make up the event are getting people “motivated to act, whether it’s a small personal change in their lives or a bigger commitment to be involved” says Andree.
Miami is ground zero for the climate crisis and where the NWD was founded in 2011. Since then there have been four nationwide events, the fifth will take place this year on April 18th. Participants will be dancing to call attention to a variety of topics ranging from:
- the pollution of rivers
- climate gentrification and
Locally, “climate change is about our most basic need, access to clean water and the effects that saltwater intrusion is having on the Everglades and our water supply” says Andree who also was selected as an Artists in Residence at the Everglades in 2018.
I interviewed this artist, activist, and educator as she prepares for the 2020 NWD. She shared her thoughts on politics, what a typical day looks like for her, and the challenges she has faced building a nationwide movement. Read the interview below.
Photo by Mateo Serna Zapata, courtesy of AIRIE.
What challenges have you faced on your journey to create this movement and keep it going?
One of the biggest challenges is always money. I pay the part-time staff who work with me and I pay the professional dancers and musicians who create the Miami event with me. This year that also includes Washington D.C. All the other locations are autonomous and organize their events locally. Kristin O’Neal and Juan Vargas have worked with me since the beginning and I have had very talented people assist me in Miami but because it is a part-time position it is very hard to keep talented people. That may be the most difficult part, keeping an administrative assistant.
Of course. It’s a nationwide initiative, I can just imagine the logistics that go into that. Can you talk about your initial inspiration and the gap between 2011 when the first dance was held, and then 2014 when you started up again?
In 2010 I began planning the first statewide project, I was inspired by Rudolf Laban’s “movement choirs” and the way they were implemented by Marylee Hardenbergh around the world. My interest at first was in creating the community of dancers and inspiring young dancers coming into the profession to see dance in a wider lens of possibilities, particularly how dancers can have a voice in bringing about social change.
In 2011 we held our first event. All of us involved felt the power and significance of creating this collective of dancers and we thought it should be a national event. It took me that amount of time, two years, to organize and pull together the first group of participants for a national movement choir.
“Love what you do.” Dale Andree
If there is one thing I know it is that great things take time. What words of wisdom would you give to others looking to pursue creating similar movements?
Love what you do, believe in it and hopefully have one or two people who will stay on the road with you. It takes a great deal of work and persistence to keep a project like this going but the rewards come everyday even when it feels like nothing is going right, someone will email me about their project or someone steps in and says they want to be a part of it and it all makes sense and I’m re-energized.
I love that what you do energizes so many, whether they are participating as a dancer or watching in person or online. What if any legislation would you write and pass given the opportunity if you knew that it would become law?
I’m not a legislator and I don’t typically think in those terms. My brush creates broader strokes and I believe that what we do with National Water Dance supports those who can create the legislation.
We need systemic change on a personal, public and political level. It begins with the changes we make in our own lives and how that has the potential to exponentially grow into political change.
- We should ban all plastic bags.
- Be allowed to bring our own containers into stores and the same with leftovers in restaurants. Public transportation systems should be upgraded so that people could really get around the city by using them.
- Emissions from cars and trucks should be regulated and a carbon tax should be placed on industry. Educational systems should be teaching students that humans inhabit the Earth in equal measure with all living beings – equal measure – it doesn’t belong to us.
Our responsibility is to all living things. I’d like to see a rights of nature bill passed in every state and by the federal government, and reconciliation with Native Americans that recognizes our need as a nation to learn from them and join with them in restoring respect for the land, the water, the air, all creatures, plants and trees and find a way to move forward together.
Amen! Can you talk about your typical daily routine? How much time do you spend working on this project, would you say this is the highlight of your career or just the beginning? What have been some key moments on your journey?
Working on National Water Dance takes up a major part of my life, 7 days a week. It’s hours and hours of administrative work from creative conceptualizing to finding out the cost of renting a porto potty or what the cheapest airfare is from Oklahoma City to Mallorca Spain. I have other projects and my company has been working on performances in the Everglades and Jose Marti Park and I raise money for those projects as well.
I have to find time also to be in the studio and in my body as a dancer, otherwise, I can’t create.
Being engaged in the community and reading about environmental issues and what people are doing to address them from all walks of life is part of my day. There are so many dance artists working around the country and the world taking on environmental issues and particularly climate change, and I keep up with them. Some of them dance with us and with Global Water Dances. Creating the community is definitely the highlight of this work and seeing the creativity of the participants both within this project and other projects they created outside of National Water Dance.
We all need to feel a part of something bigger than ourselves and artists often work in a sense of isolation, so this project is powerful in the way that we support each other and feel that energy connects us all and gives validity to the work that we love, living in our bodies and creating dance.
Locations of 2020 NWD
Dale Andree is creator and director of National Water Dance (NWD), an artist driven collective of dancers and educators stretching from coast to coast and from Alaska to Florida. She is a graduate of the Boston Conservatory of Music and adjunct faculty at New World School of the Arts. She has performed and taught nationally and internationally with her company Mary Street Dance Theatre and also worked under the direction of May O’Donnell, Pearl Lang, Paul Sansardo, Anna Sokolow, Elaine Summers and others. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Florida Dance Association and has been actively involved in bringing improvisation and site-specific dance to the Miami community. Working with Daniel Lewis, director of Miami Dance Futures and former Dean of Dance at New World School of the Arts. To learn more about NWD, follow them on Instagram, Facebook or visit their website.
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