Luther College production tells story through interdisciplinary means
Research on water quality in northeast Iowa's Dry Run Creek Watershed has inspired a unique interdisciplinary performance at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. "Body of Water," March 5-7, combines dance, music and documentary video to express human connection with water, from how people are drawn to the sound and feel of it, to the water challenges humanity faces, to how people can keep water sources clean, in both urban and agricultural areas. Grant committee members at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, co-sponsor of the production, said the endeavor is "both innovative and important, and that using the arts to communicate about agricultural issues may be key to helping Iowans change both their attitudes and practices as they relate to water."
"Body of Water" performances will be 9:30 p.m. Thursday, March 5; 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 6; and 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 7, in the Jewel Theatre, Center for the Arts, on the Luther College campus. Tickets are $12, available through the Luther Ticket Office, (563) 387-1357, (800) 458-8437, or tickets.luther.edu.
Audiences are encouraged to arrive a half-hour early to view an exhibit highlighting the experiences and findings of the science and dance research in the Dry Run Creek Watershed. The exhibit will include detailed data on the watershed, preliminary data on Decorah urban water research, video and a live dance element. There will also be maps of the area on which viewers can place a pin where they live and read about water issues in their area.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has classified a portion of Dry Run Creek as impaired due to high bacteria levels. Since 2010, Jodi Enos-Berlage, Ph.D. and professor of biology at Luther, has led bacterial and chemical monitoring research in the 20,000-acre watershed, identifying areas that were more prominent contributors of bacteria and chemicals. The fact that these areas changed in response to rainfall suggests a variety of contributing sources. The testing program is a partnership between Luther, the Iowa DNR, Iowa State University Extension, and Dry Run Creek Watershed landowners, intended to provide information that the landowners can use to develop strategies to improve water quality. The data indeed proved useful recently in obtaining a grant to help landowners implement such strategies.
"Body of Water" will incorporate brief videos narrated by Enos-Berlage, who is a farm owner in the watershed. The videos will explore the essential nature of water and how we interact with it; the Dry Run Creek droplets from molecular makeup to their Mississippi River journey to the Gulf of Mexico; challenges to maintaining good water quality; and potential solutions.
Enos-Berlage and videographer Ian Carstens interviewed Decorah- area farmers and community members, focusing on their concerns and connections with water. The pre-performance and performance videos include these community voices, Enos-Berlage said, so that it isn't only the performers and scientists speaking to the audience. "Water quality is a community concern that requires community-based solutions, and the performance will reflect that," she said.
Interspersed with the video segments, dance choreography tells more of the story, focusing on human relationships with water on a personal, everyday and emotional level. The idea for the interdisciplinary performance grew from a teaching partnership that Enos-Berlage and Jane Hawley, Luther professor of dance, began several years ago. Enos-Berlage often uses movement to teach scientific concepts and Hawley employs standard science research methods as a framework for her dance students' research. Through the "Body of Water" choreography, senior dance major Jenn Schmidt said, "We want to take ordinary movement and show how it evolves in an extraordinary, storytelling way. Then, the next time you do these daily movements, you'll remember those imaginative moments, and the performance—and the message—will have more impact."
The performance is funded in part by Luther's Visual and Performing Arts department, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, the Winneshiek County Soil and Water Conservation District, Decorah Bank and Trust, and Luther's Center for Sustainable Communities.
A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,400, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit http://www.luther.edu.