When Justin Timberlake set off on his FutureSex/LoveSounds Tour in early 2007, he was worried about the environmental impact the pollution from his myriad tour buses and trucks would have on the earth. His solution? Reduce his carbon footprint by buying carbon offsets. Jack Johnson recorded his most recent album, Sleep Through the Static, in his solar-powered studio—made entirely of reclaimed lumber!—in L.A. Leonardo DiCaprio tools around Tinseltown in his Prius. At her concerts, rapper Eve’s backstage demands include “no Styrofoam or plastic goods, no leather furniture and only recyclable materials.” With so much high-profile attention on our Earth’s woes, it’s no wonder environmental efforts have reached a fever pitch. And the dance world is no exception. From eco-friendly festivals to earth-conscious choreography, many dancers are using the artform to take action.
While it’s not surprising that the arts and social issues go hand in hand, dancers may have a special opportunity to make an impact. “Action is a combination of the heart and the mind working together,” says Marda Kirn, executive director of the EcoArts Festival in Boulder, CO. “Dancing inspires a deep heart/head connection and can really affect people to seek solutions.”
DS went on a global mission to uncover dancers making a difference. Check out our earth-friendly findings below!
How choreographers are working with your favorite celebs to make the entertainment scene just a little more green.
Talk about panic! When commercial choreographer Serena Soffer went on the road last year with rock band Panic At the Disco, she knew it was time for an eco-intervention. At the start of the tour, Serena sat down with the tour manager to design a menu featuring organic, vegan and raw foods for the dancers and crew members. “I’m completely full-out organic—right down to the sheets I sleep in,” says Serena. “Eating organically is especially important because the pesticides that go into our food cause a great deal of stress on the environment and add pollution to the air we breathe. As dancers, it’s important to take a stand about what we eat and put into our bodies.”
Co-choreographers Nick Florez and RJ Durell feel the same way about saving the Earth. Having worked with superstars like Madonna and Janet Jackson, they want to use those opportunities to effect change. “Last year, we were in rehearsals with Janet and the studio didn’t provide recycling facilities,” remembers Nick. “RJ and I started bringing bags every day to collect water bottles and cans from the dancers and take them home for recycling!” The studio has since incorporated recycling bins, and the duo has convinced friends like choreographer Brian Friedman to start recycling.
Tutu, Take Two
Choreographer Trey McIntyre and costumer Sandra Woodall have teamed up to create revolutionary recycled couture.
Are bottles and cans the future of dance fashion? If Trey McIntyre’s work is any indication, they just might be. His dance video “Brooke” features
costumes made almost entirely of plastic water bottles—from a romantic tutu to a quirky suit of armor.
The idea came about when McIntyre’s company was in residence at Florida’s White Oak Plantation wildlife sanctuary. McIntyre and his cohorts were hard at work on a series of video podcasts when he had a sudden brainstorm. “At the end of the day, our office was always strewn with tons of empty water bottles,” he remembers. “I wanted to see if Sandra could make clothes out of them for a piece, and the materials were reused in a very beautiful way.”
McIntyre also digs the idea of using materials straight from the earth’s source. In the video podcast “Limerance,” the dancers are costumed in mud from head-to-toe as they perform on the bank of the St. Mary’s River. Next fall, McIntyre’s company will perform at Wolf Trap, a national park outside of Washington, DC, devoted to the performing arts. (How cool is that?) Along with a live performance, he’ll present a video dance piece shot in Montana’s Glacier National Park to raise awareness about the melting glaciers. McIntyre then will be taking the show on the road—catch him in an eco-friendly venue near you!
To check out Trey’s video podcasts, visit http://www.treymcintyre.com/Pages/TMP2.html
No Power? No Problem!
The Solar-Powered Dance Festival has an energy all its own.
It was a hot August day, and NYC was experiencing one of its signature blackouts. Though this unexpected snafu might have meant curtains for many dance shows, the Solar-Powered Dance Festival was ready to rock. “We knew the show would still go on,” says Artistic Director Tamar Rogoff. “It was very windy and almost stormy, but we were able to continue because we were our own energy resource. It was definitely one of our most exciting performances!”
Now in its fourth season, the two-week Solar-Powered Dance Festival takes place every summer. Held outdoors in a park by the East River, the festival features the works of 12 choreographers. (Among last year’s dancemakers were Stefanie Nelson, Kelly Hayes and Bret Mantyk.) Performances are presented in the early evening, and the speakers and music system are powered entirely by solar panels. According to Tamar, the festival is designed to educate people about different ways of using solar power: “When people sit out there and feel the wind, it suddenly feels natural that we can use this energy. It’s not like sitting in a classroom learning about it.”
Even though the Solar-Powered Dance Festival doesn’t rely on electricity, no doubt it has electrified its audiences. “We set up lots of chairs, and many people come by in kayaks,” says Rogoff. “The city is a character in every piece; there is a bustling energy. The light, the wind, the dancing…it’s extraordinarily beautiful.”
Smart Spaces and Places
These future-forward dance havens are leading the way.
Total Transformation: A former plumbing warehouse in New York is getting a major makeover—into a super-green condo building that houses a 4,000-square-foot dance center! The development is Brooklyn’s first LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) “mixed-use” building, complete with eco-touches like bamboo floors and cabinets, Energy Star appliances and countertops made from recycled paper. Condo residents won’t have to go far to see awesome dance performances—the dance center will be called the Center for Performance Research, where troupes like the modern John Jasperse Company will show their stuff.
Conscious Clubbing: Who knew going out dancing could be good for the environment? Apparently, Netherlands-based environmental activism group Enviu and architecture firm Doll did. They’re working to create the world’s first “Sustainable Dance Club,” with eco-friendly features like rainwater toilets and energy-efficient LED lighting. The best part? The dance floor will harness the energy from dancing feet to create electricity. It’s about time the power of dance was recognized!
Inspired by these dancing do-gooders? Here are just a few helpful hints to get you started:
Hold a “rag swap” with your friends where you can trade old legwarmers, leotards and other dance duds. If you want, you can also swap things like books, CDs or other fun items. After all, one dancer’s trash might be another’s treasure!
Be conscious of your water use. While a half-hour shower might feel great after a long day at the studio, a 10-minute one does the trick just as nicely. Also, make sure to turn off the faucet while you’re brushing your teeth!
Want to take a bite out of grime? Sign up for Ideal Bite’s daily newsletter, which will deliver earth-friendly tips straight to your inbox: idealbite.com.
Plan a recycling fundraiser for your studio or dance company. From soda cans to used printer cartridges to old cell phones, lots of materials are in high demand for reuse—and some companies will pay you to collect them! For instance, Think Recycle (thinkrecycle.com) offers free materials for staging a year-round recycling drive. Your studio earns money based on the amount of items collected.
Instead of driving solo to dance class, organize a carpool with your friends. Not only will you save on fuel, but you’ll also get more time for girl talk!
Photo: Nicholas Phillips, Courtesy McIntyre
Much of Janelle Ginestra's career has been about helping others shine. She's dedicated herself to supporting and cheerleading her partner, WilldaBeast Adams; the emerging talents in their dance company, ImmaBEAST; and the countless dancers she inspires at master classes and conventions. Her YouTube channel has become a launching pad for young talents like "Fraternal Twins" Larsen Thompson and Taylor Hatala, thanks to viral videos featuring Ginestra's creative vision.
But Ginestra's a skyrocketing success in her own right—an in-demand choreographer, a social media influencer, and a dance entrepreneur, building a legacy one eight-count at a time. It's time for her turn in the spotlight. And she's more than ready. "I want to be a legend in whatever I do," she says. We'd argue that she already is.
For more on choosing whether to compete or not, click here.
I started dance classes at a young age. By the time I was 3, I was training at The Dance Club, and I grew up there. I started with the basics—ballet and jazz—and eventually added tap, tumbling, contemporary, and hip hop.
Early on, I did compete. I remember my first time: I did a trio at a small local competition, and it got first place. The trophy was as tall as I was, and I loved it. I attended conventions as a mini, and had the opportunity to take classes from Travis Wall, Sonya Tayeh, Andy Pellick, and Joey Dowling-Fakhrieh. There was so much variety—I was in awe.
For more on choosing whether to compete or not, click here.
My mom was a dancer growing up, and she went on to become a dance teacher, so I've really grown up in the studio. I started classes when I was 2, and by the time I was 9, I was training at The Dance Club and knew I wanted to dedicate all my time to dance.
Daphne Lee is a queen, and not just in the "OMG Girl Boss Alert" sense of the word. She's an actual queen—a beauty queen. Crowned Miss Black USA in August, she's been doing double duty as she continues to dance with the Memphis based dance company, Collage Dance Collective. Lee's new title has given her the means to encourage other black girls and boys to pursue their dreams, while also pursuing dreams of her own. The scholarship money awarded with the pageant title will assist her as she earns a Masters of Fine Arts degree at Hollins University.
When a choreographer finds a composer whose music truly inspires her, it can feel like a match made in dance heaven. Some choreographers work with the same composers so frequently that they become known for their partnerships. New York City Ballet soloist and resident choreographer Justin Peck, for example, has tapped composer Sufjan Stevens numerous times (last spring, the two premiered The Decalogue at NYCB, to rave reviews); L.A. Dance Project's Benjamin Millepied's working relationship with composer Nico Muhly has spanned a decade and two continents; and when tap dancer Michelle Dorrance premiered the first-ever Works & Process Rotunda Project, a site-specific work for New York City's Guggenheim Museum, last year, percussionist Nicholas Van Young was by her side as an equal partner. Successful collaborations require compatibility between artists, direct and honest communication, and flexible, open minds. But when the stars align, working with a composer can be extremely rewarding.
For ballerinas, it's the dream role to end all dream roles: Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, the type of part dancers spend years preparing for and whole careers perfecting. And it's a role that New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck never thought she'd dance. Though Peck is one of the world's preeminent ballerinas, her short stature made Odette/Odile, typically performed by longer, leggier dancers, seem (almost literally) out of reach.
Then—surprise!—her name popped up on the cast list for NYCB's fall season run of Swan Lake.