Monet Beatty is a junior Biology major with minors in Dance and Environmental Science, she is also a Presidential Scholar in Dance. Each spring, the Wake Forest Dance Company produces a student choreographed show that brings undergraduate work to the Tedford Mainstage theater after months of planning, rehearsals and design.
Last spring she choreographed a piece about the environment, titled “Reborn”, for the Spring 2018 Dance Company Concert. She wove a hypnotizing visual narrative about society’s need to work together in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds to improve our environment. Beatty’s work shows the importance of finding new ways to explore environmental issues across disciplines.
What is your personal background and experience with the environment?
I am an environmental science minor, and am hoping to pursue the environmental major if that is an option in the next year. In high school I attended the online program of the North Carolina School of Science and Math in which I concentrated in environmental science and took courses such as climate change biology, ecocriticism, geology, everything dealing with the environment. So I’m super concentrated, super focused in that area and I want to be a Sustainability Officer one day. So I’m thinking about the environment and sustainability in whatever I’m doing, especially dance.
Do you think it is important to find avenues to talk about science and sustainability through art?
Some people express their opinions by protesting or taking other actions. But because I’m an artist, I want to express my concerns and my thoughts about life through my art. And I always make a point to do so.
Can you describe your piece, “Reborn”?
So, there’s two parts to the dance. The first part is to a recording of newscasts about environmental hazards and natural disasters. The movement during that part is explosive and powerful to reflect the general chaos of nature. The second part, and a majority of the piece, is to a song called “Aquatic” by Son Lux. The newscast explains that something needs to be done because of all these natural disasters. And the second part explains how we all need to come together and start over to help fix this problem we’ve created. And that’s why it’s called Reborn. Its this concept of how its necessary for everyone to establish a new beginning and approach to the problem. We’re not blaming our environmental issues on anyone else. Instead its about uniting to realize the state we’re in and creating something new from that.
“Reborn” is featured on Beatty’s choreography reel starting at 1:21. “I am driven to create from a place that encompasses my cultural and spiritual perspective,” Beatty says in her reel. “I am the sum of the people and experiences that I have encountered through my journey as a young African American artist, and utilize athleticism and technical exploration to create social and relevant work that celebrates different genres of dance.”
What is your choreographic method?
I do a lot of meditating and listening to the music over and over again and letting it speak to me. That’s just how I choreograph my dances but additionally I feed off the dancers as well. I choreograph in a very integrative, connective way. I try not to make everything the same. In a way, I’m trying to avoid unity. I try to save those spots for the ending or the maximum point. It’s not just me demanding moves from the dancers either. Instead I’ll ask ‘how do you feel about this’, or ‘how can we connect with each other here’. But I really like to see people working with each other or lifting.
And I also think that reflects the environment as well because its this ever evolving thing. And I definitely wanted to show that in my movement.
How did the dance come to life on stage?
The costumes and light were a huge contribution to the theme of the dance. The costumes were all different, reflecting the fact that we’re all individuals who have to work towards this new change. The lighting was very subtle with two major lighting cues that changed the mood of the dance. After the newscasts there’s a major lighting pattern along the back of the stage and it switches to black with white speckles across the stage. At this moment, the dancers literally wipe themselves off – wiping off everything we’ve done so far and realizing that we need to come together. After this there is a moment where they stand in a line and swing their arms up to say this is enough before reaching towards each other and turning around as a group.
And what do these specific movements represent?
It is a group of individuals coming together and turning the path around, which also represents what humanity as a whole needs to do. Because no one person can change the way our society is, and it really has to be a progressive, united thing.
What was your inspiration for this piece overall?
Definitely the music. The song Aquatic took a lot of time to decipher the lyrics and meaning. It turns out the name of the song is Aquatic but he’s actually talking about the womb in a woman’s body, so the birthing of a new beginning. And that’s how I came to realize I wanted to do a piece about the environment. I just really wanted to place the emphasis on us starting something fresh. And from there I found the first part and collected all those newscasts about natural disasters.
Have you done any other projects that combine dance and the environment?
Last spring I also did a piece for Wake Forest during earth week that I would describe as a more “in your face” environmental dance. This piece featured company members from MBDanceCo, the dance company I founded in 2015. It was a spoken word piece that literally said we’re headed down this dark road, and if you don’t like it you need to do something. Compared to my piece for the Dance Company Concert that leaves you pondering about the message, this one arouses more emotions. The words about ecosystem loss are almost scary. So they’re on completely different, opposite points on the spectrum.
How is their impact on the audience different?
Well they definitely both have the potential to make an impact. It depends on the individual watching and whether, as a choreographer, I want to go the subtle route or the more demanding route. Either way I felt just as rewarded and satisfied as a choreographer. I think my dancers were fulfilled as well. Dances that tell a story or speak to some social issue are so important, but sometimes overlooked. We need to take full advantages of these opportunities to speak to an audience through a different lense than they may be used to. And there is always opportunity to speak through dance.