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Moving to zero through dance

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Can the human body communicate a message of climate change when scientific evidence has failed to find its mark?

Alison Plevey thinks so.

A dancer, choreographer and performance artist, Alison is the creative force behind Australian Dance Party. Unique to the political capital, the Australian Dance Party collaborates with artists, scientists, academics and business groups to encourage people to think critically about important issues.

“We’re an activist dance company, and we engage with ideas that are challenging our community, society and environment and present these ideas through the human body,” Alison explains.

Alison says movement can capture attention, convey complex ideas and transform people’s perspectives ways that no other form of communication can.

Credit: Lorna Sim

Human beings have always used dance to tell stories. “Our body is our gateway to the world,” Alison explains.

It is the meeting point between the public and the personal – which is why the body is the perfect medium to share a message of climate change.

Alison is currently putting the finishing touches on Moving to Zero, a series of four short films which directly engage citizens of the ACT to consider how they can work towards zero emissions.

Created in connection with video production company Screencraft, Moving to Zero aims to “increase awareness, agency and action,” Alison adds.

Moving to Zero consultation process.

Each film tells the story of climate change through dance. Through dance, in combination with music, costume and set design, she invites viewers to think and act differently. While dance may at first seem an incongruous medium to communicate a multifaceted topic like climate change, Alison says it is the perfect platform.

“To achieve our zero emissions target, mobilising the whole community is vital. We need creative ideas to engage people with climate action. Dance is far more than entertainment. It is a medium of communication in which the human body expresses ideas.”

It also challenges people to look at those ideas through a different lens.

The ACT Government’s promise to eliminate all emissions by 2045 is the most ambitious in the nation. But we have our work cut out for us. Last year, the ACT emitted 9.64 tonnes of carbon per person – compared to just under five tonnes per person globally.

As part of the Moving to Zero project, Alison conducted an online survey which explored Canberrans’ current behaviours – how they shop, use transport and dispose of waste. She also hosted two workshops in association with scientists Will Steffen and Mark Stafford-Smith.

“A lot of the comments we received from individuals in the community were quite sad. So many people felt they weren’t making any difference to climate change. My work is about showing how much power each of us has, and what we are able to achieve when we work together.”

Alison’s approach is to guide viewers to understand steps they can take towards change, with choreography as the tool that invites action, and promises that everyone will be able understand the dancers’ movements. “The best way to motivate change is to be funny, quirky, silly but also create beautiful choreography.”

Edgar Degas, who spent his life capturing the shape of ballet dancers in paint and clay, once wrote that it is “people’s movement that consoles us. If the leaves of a tree did not move, how sad would be the tree – and so should we”.

Scientific data has done little to change the way we interact with our environment. Perhaps human movement can help us human beings reconnect with the natural world. So keep your eyes peeled for the films’ release on 2 August via social media, YouTube and in pre-show cinema entertainment. And check out Australian Dance Party.

Feature image: Courtesy of Brand CBR

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