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A Dance Theater Work Foregrounds Climate Crisis at WRJ Fest


Published July 12, 2023 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated July 18, 2023 at 10:07 a.m.

Tina Fores-Hitt in "Me, Myself and I" at the 2022 Junction Dance Fest - COURTESY OF MATHIEU DENEEN
  • Courtesy Of Mathieu Deneen
  • Tina Fores-Hitt in "Me, Myself and I" at the 2022 Junction Dance Fest

Smoke from Canadian wildfires has created dangerous air quality indexes recently, prompting artists to think about the climate crisis in new ways. Loom Ensemble, an interdisciplinary professional theater company based in Springfield, is one example. Its new work, Tell Me How You Breathe, explores eco-activism, social justice and public health through the topics of breathing and the lungs.

The work premieres this week in White River Junction at the Junction Dance Festival, which presents workshops, dance showings, films and performances from Thursday, July 13, through Sunday, July 16. Loom Ensemble performs Tell Me How You Breathe on Thursday and Friday evenings at Lyman Point Park and then tours the work to Montpelier, Brattleboro, Burlington, Boston, and cities in New York and western Massachusetts.

"Loom theater is character, text and plot based," company codirector Raphael Sacks said. "But we use the abstraction of dance to deepen into the visceral, emotional layers of a story."

For each performance, local dance ensembles will join Loom's racially diverse team of professional dancers, musicians and actors to tell stories that address challenging questions such as "Who gets to breathe freely, fully, with ease?" Sacks said.

In the piece, "some scenes are public health panels and news interviews in a potentially not-so-far-away imagined future," Sacks continued. "Then, in a moment of emotional intensity, the actors and ensemble dance out what's happening for them. They express feelings and truths that may not always be put into words."

Lucia Gagliardone in "The Hollow" at the 2022 Junction Dance Fest - COURTESY OF KAY MCCABE
  • Courtesy Of Kay Mccabe
  • Lucia Gagliardone in "The Hollow" at the 2022 Junction Dance Fest

Audience members will be invited to participate in "specific, guided, well-supported ways," Sacks added, and the piece is "unapologetically political. We are explicitly framing this entire project as body-positive, anti-racist, queer magic."

After each performance, the artists will give audience talk-backs. Members of Sunrise Movement, a group of youth climate activists, will take part in some of them.

"It's the showcase piece for the festival by a company that performs internationally," Junction Dance Festival founder and director Elizabeth Kurylo, of Corinth, said of Loom's premiere.

Conceived in 2019 and launched in 2022, the annual festival is a nonprofit dedicated to supporting, promoting and presenting works by dancers, choreographers and other performance artists from Vermont, New Hampshire and neighboring states. Most events are free, and many are designed for people new to dance.

"We offer a Scottish dance class, ballet for beginners, beginner baroque," Kurylo listed. "There is quite a lot for people with no dance experience or very little experience."

Those with experience may study a number of forms, including somatic-based contemporary dance, ballet and improvisation.

At the festival, parents and kids can interact in the Co-Motion workshop and the Family Contact Improvisation workshop.

Interested in dance but not ready to participate? Junction Arts & Media is screening seven short dance films, curated by the Vermont Dance Alliance, which will run in a loop Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Live dance showings will take place at the Open Door Integrative Wellness center on Saturday afternoon and full-length performances on Saturday and Sunday evenings at Briggs Opera House. Saturday's show includes works by contemporary dancer Erin McNulty, Indian classical dancer Nithya Ramesh and genre-defying Calvin Walker. Sunday's show includes works by Brazilian American artist Paula Higa, postmodern dancer Lucia Gagliardone and former New Hampshire artist laureate Amanda Whitworth.

Kurylo hopes the festival will expand dance appreciation in the Upper Valley. "And maybe people will try a workshop here or there," she said.

Tell Me How You Breathe by Loom Ensemble, presented by Junction Dance Festival, Thursday and Friday, July 13 and 14, 6 to 7:30 p.m., at Lyman Point Park, White River Junction. Rain date: Monday, July 17, 6 to 7:30 p.m. $20; student and BIPOC pay-as-you-wish option; free for kids under 12. loomensemble.com

Junction Dance Festival, Thursday, July 13, through Sunday, July 16, at various sites in White River Junction. Free during the day; $20 for evening shows. thejunctiondancefestival.org

The original print version of this article was headlined "A Dance Theater Work Foregrounds the Climate Crisis at WRJ Fest"

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