Dance is an increasingly popular art form for the investigation of cultural understandings of nature. Associate Professor of Dance, Christina Soriano, engaged her students in just such an investigation this semester. Soriano, who was a member of the 2014 Magnolias Curriculum Project cohort, modified her Dance Composition class to incorporate sustainability.
Soriano challenged her students to choreograph a piece based on nature, specifically something growing in Reynolda Gardens. She asked them to observe various plants, and then choose one to explore, taking into account its color, structure, growth and movement; how it might change with the seasons, and how it might react to light. With this information, the students developed their own movement studies, aligning their dances with nature.
After the assignment, the class performed Anna Halprin’s Planetary Dance to witness how other choreographers integrate nature themes into their work.
The students were also asked to consider how an art form like dance might become more sustainable through rehearsal, repetition, and thoughtful use of time and resources. She encouraged them to consider what made dance sustainable, and to journal their thoughts and experiences.
Annie Stockstill, a student in Soriano’s class, reflected that by continuing to dance well-known pieces, “I am preserving the ongoing life of the dances, and therefore acting out sustainability.” Serena Cates expressed similar feelings, stating “Personally, I choose to perceive dance as sustainable because, although the technique, style, or choreography alters over time, the motivation and impact of it has remained.”