Environmental Dance Experiment
In Aldo Leopold’s view, conservation of wildness was self-defeating. ‘When we cherish nature,’ he said, ‘we must see and fondle it, and when enough have seen and fondled, there is no wilderness left to cherish.’ Leopold contested humans should experience nature through perception and not through recreation. A photograph is one of the few hobbies in which a human can perceive nature without ‘writing one’s signature on the face of the land.’
Leopold believed in order to conserve nature we needed to establish a land ethic that focuses less on our enjoyment of nature but more on our human connection to ecology. Environmental philosopher, J.B. Callicott, furthers Leopold’s argument by advocating for a human land aesthetic that appreciates an ecosystem for its function and all of its biotic components, versus an idealized beauty that appreciates just the photo.
" An autonomous natural aesthetic should involve so much more than the visual appeal of natural environments...the appreciation of an environment's natural beauty should involve the ears (the sounds of wind, insects, birds, or silence itself), the surface of the skin (the warmth of the sun, chill of the wind, textures if the grass, rock, sand etc), the nose and tongue (the fragrance of the flowers, the odor of decay, the taste of saps and waters) as well as the eyes.”
J.B. Callicott from an essay titled, “The Land Aesthetic”
Callicott believed in order to establish an ethical and aesthetic kinship with the land, the human relationship with nature needs to shift to support a non-anthropocentric value theory that recognizes the intrinsic values of all species to the function of the ecosystem. This shift opposes the current theory that places human as the center.
Evolution is not Anthropocentric was a scientific inquiry that began with a Research Question in 2010: Can dance be a method to discover the innate human connection with the Earth, to support a non-anthropocentric dialogue of species, and to experience the land aesthetic? The Hypothesis, derived after five years of research (shorted version in the first three paragraphs) evolved to be: Yes. The role of an environmental dancer, and any environmental activist is to find a practice that habituates ‘listening’ and non-anthropocentric values. From that practice, a dance would then emerge from assessments and artistic choices with regard to eco values.
The process of creating and performing Evolution is not Anthropocentric was the Experiment/Test.
We began by dancing outside in five New York City sites: Prospect Park, a park alongside the Gowanus Canals, Central Park, Red Hook Recreation Area, and Rockaway Beach.
The first sessions in Prospect Park began with contemplative dance practice: 20 minutes of meditation, 20 minutes of warming up the body with the eyes closed, and 20 minutes of open space (open eye) improvisation. We generated movement patterns from the last 20 minutes and shared it with each other, collaborated on more movement ideas from that place, and did some contact improvisation in the park with each other.