My interest in communicating science to broad audiences and engaging with the arts to accomplish this goal has resulted in collaborations with the Visual and Performing Arts Department at Luther. In particular, I have been engaged in multiple teaching partnerships and projects with Luther Dance Professor Jane Hawley. Two of the outcomes of this work are described here.
Students in Jane Hawley’s Movement Fundamentals class, in collaboration with Jodi Enos-Berlage and area children, participated in this movement choir of bodies in motion performed simultaneously (and live-streamed) across the United States. The goal of this effort was to use dance as a means of moving people to action in an effort to save our water resources. The Luther group performed their dance at Dunning’s Spring, a beautiful, local coldwater spring in Decorah.
This unique interdisciplinary performance at Luther, directed by Jane Hawley with collaborator Jodi Enos-Berlage, merged science and the arts to raise awareness and reverence for water as a precious resource. Specifically, dance, music, and video combine to reveal the sacredness of water, this essential molecule and elixir of life, while acknowledging challenges and solutions surrounding water usage and quality within the Dry Run Creek Watershed, Decorah, and broader community.
The key features of the water molecule justify its distinction as the molecule of life. Water allows cells to form and all bodies to survive. Flowing water authorizes movement and existence. Every cellular body exists in an ecosystem that is dependent on water flow,from backyards to streams, rivers, the Mighty Mississippi, Gulf of Mexico, ocean, and earth. This performance reveals the sacredness of water in an intimate way, creating affection and reverence for this essential molecule of life. Current challenges surrounding water usage and quality will be examined, along with solutions that involve practices and people within the Dry Run Creek Watershed, Decorah, and the broader community. This production highlights how small actions by individuals accumulate into a powerful force, producing an outcome that benefits all.
Jodi Enos-Berlage, a biology professor who conducts water quality research, and Jane Hawley ’87, a dance professor who utilizes dance as an art form to communicate ideas, have been developing the concept for this production through several teaching partnerships funded by Luther College since 2006. These partnerships recognize the value of connecting science and the arts while questioning how the arts could effectively address research in science to the public. Enos-Berlage’s four-year water quality research project on an agricultural-based stream that drains into the city of Decorah, new collaboration with the city of Decorah on an urban water quality/quantity project, and regular participation and leadership in the Iowa Water Conference, have provided information and education for the development of this performance. Hawley’s ideation of the body as a primary source for reflecting social, environmental, mythical, practical, and political culture, along with her dedication to empowering student learning through the generation of movement vocabulary for dance performance, have provided the collaborative elixir for this production.