So far, I’ve gotten to dance during four ice stations. An “ice station” is when the Healy nestles up against an ice floe, drops anchor and the scientists get to do their experiments—drill holes, collect water column samples, measure albedo, etc.

On ice station days, we have a 10am briefing in the bridge, then the Coast Guard sends down an ice survey team and a bear watch. Once the all-clear is given, the scientists gather on the deck and head down the steep brow.

After the science team has gotten to work, I hazard down myself and pick a spot to dance. My first station (my first, but actually #3), had great-looking topography. The backdrop was an amphitheater of ice ridges with one particularly large and bluish tomb-like block. Unfortunately, the location also had rather deep snow and a perilously uneven sea ice surface beneath its pristine covering. Despite my graceless trudging and a few puckering gusts, I managed to get some good practice in and the Healy’s navigator, BMCM Tim Sullivan (aka “Master Chief”), took some nice stills from the bridge.

For my second station, I chose a relatively sheltered spot close to the vessel. This time the floe was expansive and flat. The day was a uniform white. On the horizon, a row of ridges barely separated sky from snow. After practicing a while in my “ice cape” (designed especially for these in situ occasions), I decided to try out dancing in just my white unitard.

I set up my camera to shoot myself in a static waist shot, so that when I stood with my arms outstretched, they rested on the horizon. I felt like a camouflaged creature — white costume, white ground, white sky, cloudy breath. To the sounds of Inuit throat-singing (emanating from my mp3 player!), I experimented with aligning my body to the horizon, finding sharp edges of movement in sympathy with the distant ridges and mustering up an intensity to combat the cold. The temperature was around 14 degrees F.

I’ve continued practicing in various costumes and testing out new camera angles. Yesterday, at my fourth station, we had glorious sunshine and little wind. Pierre Coupel, a scientist who has been assisting me periodically, shot some wide-angle footage from the bridge in which I appear as tiny as a fly in a huge sea ice expanse.

All of the stations up until now have been rehearsals for when the outreach team’s professionals, photographer Amanda Kowalski and documentarian Ben Harden, will shoot me for a dance-for-camera piece. As of now, we are planning to do the shoot at the ice station tomorrow. I’m hoping for sunshine and still air! . . .  [To be continued.]

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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