Review: National Water Dance, a Fluid Movement
Dancers are movers and water in nature is almost always moving. The National Water Dance performance brought the two together at the historic Deering Estate on Saturday, April 16, as part of the estate’s Festival of the Arts. At exactly 4:00 p.m. dancers from across the nation used movement to bring awareness to the substance that covers roughly 70 to 75 percent of the world’s surface. Founded and directed by Dale Andree and produced by Daniel Lewis, National Water Dance is a movement choir bringing together dancers of all levels and abilities to create a national engagement over “water ethics.”
Dancers entered the sprawling front lawn of the Estate bearing banners and wearing various shades of blue and white. Lines formed, then flowed into groups as the dancers, both professionals and students, paid homage to one of our most precious resources. We were reminded of the importance of the Everglades in a powerful reading from Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ harbinger book River of Grass.
Gestures of the hands and arms suggested ripples and waves; and as water cycles have no starting point we saw only connections as movements ebb and flow like the tides. We experienced the calmness of the sea in the serenity of arms slowly rising up, then undulating down. Dancers seemed to play in the water, linking arms and creating waves; forming in lines then breaking away as the vastness of the water seemed to surround them. Circles turned into whirlpools of runs and jumps. Everyone joined in — the sea seemed to beckon all.
Storms arose in the urgency of the dancers movements: in the quivering of the shoulders, the deep contractions, and turbulence jumps and lifts. Dancers were lifted as if by the currents and dipped to resurface as dolphins riding out the storm. As some dancers sat and looked on like mermaids perched on a cliff, water seemed to flow all around us.
Water has long been an impetus for many choreographers. Isadora Duncan wrote in her autobiography that it was a major source of inspiration for her. National Water Dance performers and their engagement with the environment called to mind Duncan’s temple dances. Doris Humphrey’s seminal work, Water Study, presents the cycles of the sea; while Alvin Ailey’s Revelation centers on baptism by water, especially in the Wade in the Water section.
National Water Dance movement choir is an inspirational group of dancers coming together for a common purpose. Performing on Saturday were companies and schools from Miami. They included the New World School of the Arts, Augusto Soledade’s BrazzDance, Karen Peterson & Dancers, Dance Now! Miami, Bridgeprep Academy of Arts & Minds, Conchita Espinosa Academy, and Cutler Ridge Middle School. All delivered strong performances that showed their unique connection and interpretation of the cause.
The performance culminated in the dancers turning to Biscayne Bay and bowing to the water. The cycle was complete. And as the music rose up in a resounding rendition of Beethoven’s The Hymn of Joy from his Ninth Symphony, we saw the joy in the faces of the dancers as they showed respect to the bay stretching out before us and beyond.