Dale Andree, director, founder, and organizer extraordinaire of the National Water Dance (NWD), met me in the parking lot of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center in Crandon Park on Key Biscayne. We were off to see the Miami setting for Saturday's (April 14) massive “water” event that is being embraced by over 100 dance organizations across the North American continent, and over 45 in Florida alone.
The organizations are uniting their physical voices to create a movement choir, a community of people dancing together for a common purpose. First conceived by Rudolf Laban, the dances are often performed outside in celebration of the environment and frequently, participants invite the audience to join the dance. The NWD organizations believe that our environment is the most pressing issue of this generation and as dancers, using our bodies and movement is a way to create a community that reaches out for action.
For the National Water Dance performance,which happens at exactly 4 p.m. EST Saturday wherever you are, each dance organization will commence with a unified movement phrase that has been created and shared by Andree, and then break into their own choreography to create a unified voice of movement in site-specific dance creations nationwide. The dances will be streamed, shared and videoed so that everyone can see what every other group is doing and people everywhere can watch.
NWD is partnering with Pedestrian Wanderlust, an organization that creates video portraits and free public dance jams to inspire others through the joy of dance. For NWD, Wanderlust is making spontaneous dance videos at water sites all over the country leading up to the date of the event.
Andree is not a slow walker, in fact, it is difficult to keep up with her, but it is a metaphor for how she does things; nothing she does is slow. Off we went on a concrete path that soon turned to sand. As we walked, Andree filled me in on all the activities that are in the works before the final culminating performance.
“We did a beach clean-up, and then had art workshops afterwards, the discovery of sea life, walking on the sandbar. Having an event like that with Miami Waterkeeper deepened the collaborative relationship with an environmental group, which is great. Many students who are not dancers get to be part of this process, as well. For this year, we have an exchange between the Conchita Espinoza Academy, Morningside K-8 Academy and schools in Hawaii and they’re exchanging poems. Those poems will all be on display.”
We trudged through beach grass and trees until we arrived to the beach and a beautiful sandbar stage that extended far into the ocean. It was easy to imagine how glorious it must feel to dance in that natural vastness surrounded by sun and sea. With the tide rolling in, the performance space was slowly becoming engulfed in water. I was prepared for dancers rehearsing on a dry beach-like setting. This was a “roll up your pants and get wet” interview.
Andree laughingly noted, as much as she tries to follow the schedule of the tides, rehearsals can only be scheduled when people can come and that isn’t always when the tide is out.
“This is really interesting because when the tide is in, it is totally covered in water and actually is fairly deep. But the low tide on the 14th is an hour and ten minutes before the performance which means that the sandbar will be very visible way out there for the beginning of the dance, but water will start coming in slowly to divide the bar during the performance. So by the end, we should all be in some degree of water.”
As we were talking, dancers and directors began to arrive for rehearsal. The rehearsal time today was to be spent in transitions. These few, more mature dancers would be the leaders that the younger students would follow. With the numerous organizations involved, schedules don’t permit group on site rehearsals, so it has to be done totally separately until everyone arrives to the site on the 14th. It is a logistical challenge and the leaders of the huge event play a very important role.
“Coming here many, many times, imagining it, coming up with ideas with the dancers, and how to move the dancers within this space. This is definitely more to adjust to than we’ve had in the past. Our big 4 hour rehearsal will be very intense. We’ll find out on the 14th!”
“Where people are taking dance performance is just very exciting. While the NWD is very organized, this whole environment opens it up for exploration and improvisation. I bring the choreographers out here and they are so inspired when they see the setting.”
Live music, composed and played by Brandon Cruz and his musicians, an immense beachfront space, a myriad of dancers and musicians, the glorious sun, the infinite sea, and dance for a cause that affects everyone. Performed every two years, the National Water Dance is an an awe-inspiring movement.
- National Water Dance at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center in Crandon Park on Key Biscayne
- Saturday, April 14, 4pm FREE
- For more information visit: nationalwaterdance.org