Finding adequate rehearsal space in NYC is tough. In March and April while preparing for Polar Vortex, my dancers and I rehearsed in seven different locations. So, imagine my joy aboard USCG Healy where, as the only choreographer amongst a pod of scientists, I’ve commandeered the helicopter hangar as my workspace.

Prior to launch in Dutch Harbor, I purchased a 40’ x 30’ tarp that is my portable dance-floor. A deep blue, it suggests a tropical pool mysteriously lurking on this ice-cutter. The air temperature, however, is distinctly Arctic. I warm myself up thoroughly in the gym (The Healy has two!) then unroll my tarp and deliriously bound, lunge, lean and roll.

As the crew is fond of saying, The Healy is a remarkably stable vessel—a flat bottom and an internal water flume are just part of the complex engineering that keep its roll to a minimum. That said, a certain amount of rocking is inevitable on the sea — the unpredictable tilt of the floor adds a fun challenge to balancing. Even more delightful are the jostling rumbles as we plow through the ice.

I share the hangar with Sigrid Salo, an oceanographer with NOAA, who sets a weather balloon aloft daily at 4am and 4pm. At first, when she calmly laid a sheet beside my tarp and blew up her balloon, I was afraid I might accidentally swerve off-balance and puncture it with my sticks (part of my costume), but she was unconcerned.

Yesterday, when Sigrid set the balloon aloft on the helipad, it took off, dipped a little and did a swirly dance on the way back up. I took the balloon as inspiration for a bit of twirling and leaping of my own, to the amusement of some crew members who were out grilling meat for our Saturday night Hawaiian Luau. Ah, the joy of a well-timed atmospheric gust.

About The Author

Jody Sperling

Jody is a dancer, choreographer and writer based in New York City. Founder and Artistic Director of Time Lapse Dance she seeks to glean as much as possible about the sea ice to find ways to express its dynamism and fragility on stage.

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