Reflections on my recent work Treasure, inspired by the seas, and informed by the climate crisis
We are in the midst of a climate emergency.
We are beginning to see this change happening around us right here in the UK, with record high temperatures being made and broken year on year. We almost hit 40 degrees this summer.
So what can we do about it? As individuals, our efforts of meticulously sorting our recycling and refusing plastic straws can seem small, even pointless when faced with the scary facts and headlines (do we really only have ten years to save the Earth?!). But there seems to be a change in the air, with local councils declaring climate emergencies and more and more businesses pledging to reduce plastic waste. Movements such as School Strike for Climate and Extinction Rebellion are showing that it is an issue that cannot be ignored, and it’s heartening to see young people so engaged and active in ensuring we talk about it.
As a consumer, I do my best to minimise my impact on the environment through what I eat, buy and how I travel (I suspect the day I finally get a driving licence will probably be the day they ban cars anyway).
As an artist, I felt passionate about finding a way to share my concerns with an audience. I felt it would be remiss to ignore this global issue when it is present in my daily life, featuring in my conversations and informing so many of my choices. This led to the creation of my latest work, Treasure.
Treasure was initially inspired by the geology of the landscape in the South West UK. While Bath feels very much an inland city, we are surrounded by geologically rich coastlines in Somerset, Devon and Dorset. These ancient coastlines have stood for millions of years, yet are constantly changing. Where we were once a shallow sea, could climate change make this happen again? It’s happening in other parts of the world, where low lying areas are being swallowed whole by rising sea levels.
My choreography started from images of fossils, fish skeletal structures, and the geological landscape itself, imagining bands of rock and mud pushing down on the sea beds over millions of years. I also wanted to portray a human story, through exploring memories and relationships, love and loss. Mingling these two together, I found a sense of care on both a human and ecological level, that threads through the work. The contrast of memories and exploring geological past serve to ground us before we become thrown headfirst into an uncertain future.
The work becomes more visceral and violent, with dancers falling, tipping and gasping for air. Parts of Treasure are uncomfortable to watch and emotional to perform. While I didn’t want this piece to be in any way didactic, the facts are undeniably distressing and I had to be honest within my choreography.
In a small tour in spring 2019, we performed Treasure to a mix of ages and backgrounds. What I found most heartening was that younger audience members were engaged and interested in the piece, even in its darker themes. I hope that this reflects on a wider trend of young people leading the way in fighting against this crisis.
Looking at the work from a few months’ distance, the moments that stand out are not the large set pieces, but the smaller,tender gestures inspired by intricate beauty of a coral, or the feeling of sand trickling through fingertips. As the crisis escalates, I hope to tour Treasure to many more venues, reminding people not just of what we have to lose, but why it deserves to be saved.