Penn’s Landing: Where Dance Mingles With Sustainability

As water ethics and awareness have grown over the past decade in Philadelphia, residents have become accustomed to hearing messages of sustainability from such familiar voices as the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, the Delaware River Basin Commission, and the Fairmount Water Works. Whether in the classroom or at a community meeting, people are told what the issues are.

Temple University students, faculty and alumni offered another perspective at Race Street Pier earlier this month as part of the the National Water Dance, a coalition of dance groups from across the country. They performed a series of movements in an effort to bring awareness to Philadelphia’s waterways. This was one of more than 70 performances taking place in 30 states, all at the same time.

The pier, located at Race Street and North Columbus Boulevard and owned by the Delaware River Waterfront Corp., has been utilized as a venue for music performances as well as recreational activities since it was opened in May of 2011.

With the help of the Jon Katz Trio, which provided the music, the seven dancers moved around the entire space of the pier during a dance sequence that lasted about 25 minutes.

The Jon Katz Trio packs up after the performance on Saturday, April 12.
The Jon Katz Trio packed up after the performance on Saturday, April 12.

The choreographer, Colleen Hooper, said she hoped a dance based on water issues would get people to think about the topic in a different way, rather than just presenting them with the facts.

“We can enjoy this beautiful day, enjoy the performance,” she said, “and think about those resources we have, give a time for reflection. That’s what I’m hoping.”

Is an artistic interpretation of water effective in getting the word out?

“It wouldn’t have been the first thing that I would have thought of,” said Michael Dastaneda, an event volunteer.

He went on to say that he thought this event was a success because of the fact that the National Water Dance has grown so much since its inception in 2011.

“I’m glad to see that it’s reaching across the country,” he said. “Clearly, people are jumping on board.”

Kathy Williams, a friend of a few of the dancers, also spoke about water ethics, “I think dance is a wonderful way to express it. It might not be everybody’s language that they’re really consciously aware of but it is moving. I am encouraged with this.”

– Text, video and photos by Mike Kitay.

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