Carbon-neutral choreography
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Carbon-neutral choreography

heatandlife1.jpgWhile searching for links to go along with last week’s Behind the 8-Ball Q&A with Emily Johnson, curator of this weekend’s successful Choreographers’ Evening, I noticed that her Walker/Jerome-commissioned work Heat & Life is on a 50-state tour. And given the performance’s theme — climate change and its implications on how we live — the company is buying carbon offsets to help reduce its carbon footprint.

I emailed Johnson to hear what it means to be “carbon neutral.” In her reply she said that oft-used buzzword is too forgiving. “To be truly carbon neutral” — that is to add no carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in the course of touring — “we’d be walking to our performance cities and venues and performing in the dark,” she wrote.

Still, from paying for tree planting to doing roadside theater to raise awareness of the issue, Johson’s company Catalyst is truly putting its money where its moves are.

More from her email:

It doesn’t make sense to me to tour a performance piece about the detrimental effects of living in a world affected by global warming and add tons and tons of carbon into the air while doing it, so with each tour I calculate the amount of carbon we produce via our flights, driving miles (we have to drive a mini van to haul all of the props and gear), and electricity during the run and donate to to “off-set” the carbon we produce. uses the money to plant the amount of trees needed to offset the carbon emissions. Every once and a while I get an update on how the trees are doing… That’s pretty cool.

I also try to organize our tour schedule to limit our impact. My initial goal was to perform Heat and Life, or a version of it, in all 50 states of this country — and to perform it until our environmental policies changed enough to make a difference or until awareness was at an acute level (we might have reached this point, at least). Since my idea was to put the energy and intention of the performance in each state, it didn’t matter if there was always a stage or an audience even. This has led us to perform in theaters (DTW, Links Hall), in

makeshift performance spaces (Soap Factory, Gallery Lombardi, Que-Ana Bar), in public spaces (Living Green Expo, roadside rest stops), and in natural settings (a mountaintop in Alaska, on the banks of the Missouri River…). On our drive to Nebraska (where we did a 4 day residency and performance on a family farm), for example we stopped in South Dakota and performed outdoors — just picked a beautiful area and sung a song from the piece and danced certain sections. No one saw us but the landscape. Then, on the way home we pulled over off 35 somewhere in Iowa and each company member performed a solo from the piece — an improvised version — and I don’t know, cars were blaring by, honking, maybe 2,000 people saw us that time.

And, you’ve reminded me: I need to make another donation.

Read more on green art museums and environmentally sensitive theater.

Photo from a Heat & Life performance by Chris McKinley.

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