I’m aboard the Healy to conduct research—artistic, not scientific—for a choreography project entitled Ice Melt. While the science team will be collecting data about under-ice phytoplankton blooms, ocean physics and sea ice composition, I’ll be gathering information too. I want to learn as much as possible about the dynamism and fragility of sea ice so that I can bring its character to life on stage. I’ll be collecting “samples” — images, videos and sound recordings —to use in the creation of the work with my company Time Lapse Dance upon return.

I’m also planning to dance upon the ice! This is the part of the project that’s most exciting and unknown to me. I’ll be collaborating with the team’s photographer Amanda Kowalski and documentarian Ben Harden to film these dance excursions. We’ll make a movie of these “in situ” performances that will be incorporated into future Ice Melt productions.

A couple of weeks ago, in anticipation of the launch, I presented “Polar Vortex” a program of studio performances and climate science discussions. The event featured the premiere of a new solo, Arctic Memory which will form the basis of my sea-ice dances. My costume, constructed by designer Mary Jo Mecca and hand-painted by textile artist Gina Nagy Burns, was conceived to suggest ice-floe mosaics.

“Polar Vortex” included repertory performances by my company and conversations about climate outreach. We were fortunate to have three wonderful guest speakers: on Thursday, May 1 we were joined by Margie Turrin of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory; and on Friday, May 2 we heard from Jessica Brunacini of PoLAR Hub and author/fellow Healy traveller Dallas Murphy. The conversations were remarkably lively. I felt charged by the intensity of the audience engagement and the collective desire for climate education and action.

I feel a tremendous sense of purpose with this project. For the first time, my concern for the planet and my artistic vision are converging. As we develop Ice Melt, I plan to continue presenting conversations in conjunction with performances, that focus on climate science, local impacts of climate change and strategies for action.

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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