If Dale Andree could be reincarnated as an animal in her next life, she’d be a seal. The National Water Dance founder and artistic director, a self-professed “water baby,” has a kinship with H20. That connection helped her realize an artistic vision that has become a national force of nature.
In 2011, she created the Florida Waterways Dance Project, a collaborative initiative of site-specific performances, and in 2014, the dance project evolved into a nationwide event now called the National Water Dance. The collective of movement choirs will perform simultaneously near or around bodies of water for the second National Water Dance this Saturday, April 16.
There will be dance performances on the edge of the Everglades; choreographed works paying tribute to Ohio’s Cuyahoga River, which feeds Lake Erie; and dance pieces set at Louisiana's Bayou DeSiard and Indiana’s Jordan River. The largest expected gathering for National Water Dance will be on the West Coast, where hundreds of students from the Los Angeles Unified School District will converge at a fountain. Other performances are planned in 32 states, from Alaska to Hawaii.
It all began in Miami with Andree and founding producer Daniel Lewis. A year later, a collective of 2,000 co-creators across the United States presents site-specific performances with dance as the main art form.
“My desire was to inspire artists to realize the power of art to bring awareness to environmental issues, particularly water,” Andree says.
At the Deering Estate in Palmetto Bay, dancers, singers, and musicians will present a water dance produced and choreographed by Andree. “What better place? We're right at the mouth of the issues we’re dealing with — saltwater intrusion and the drying up of the Everglades. But then there’s the beauty of the estate that takes hold of you too, and with 164 performers, it will be mesmerizing.”
Four percussionists will accompany 80 dancers from local troupes Dance Now Miami, Karen Peterson & Dancers, and August Soldade BrazzDance. An original percussion score was created by Brandon Cruz, director of South Florida Center for Percussive Arts, based on Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." Bridgeprep Academy of Arts & Minds High School choir in Coconut Grove will sing the "Ode." New World School of the Arts, Cutler Bay Middle School, and Conchita Espinosa Academy will also participate.
The growth of Water Dance in its second incarnation is promising, but Andree says it’s difficult to quantify the impact the event had in 2014 or will have this year. She wants the scope to expand to include more collaborations with environmental groups. This year, she also wants to pay close attention to gathering information on what worked and what didn't.
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“With every manifestation, we create a larger voice. It’s not one of those things where you're signing petitions and you get 100,000 names that you take to the legislature. With this, many people involved and with this many people being reached, we are making a difference but in ways that are hard to define. We need to keep building it and just keep it moving.”
The next National Water Dance will be held in 2018.
— Michelle F. Solomon, arburstmiami.com
National Water Dance
4 p.m. Saturday at the Deering Estate at Cutler, 16701 SW 72nd Ave., Palmetto Bay. Gates open at 3:30 p.m. Admission is free. The event will be live-streamed on YouTube from sites around the country. Visit www.nationalwaterdance.org.