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From June 8 to 12, Eugene Baffoe, a hip-hop dancer known as GeNie, performed a series of fun and thought-provoking freestyle sequences for small audiences, addressing the urgency of climate change.
During his four-minute performance, part of Bike and Circuses presented by Green Kids Inc. in Winnipeg’s Whittier Park, Baffoe taught audiences patterns that they would clap back to him, which he would then freestyle to, showcasing the three stages of water: liquid, gas and ice. If the audience executed the pattern properly, he would dance well, and if they didn’t, “The performance would suffer accordingly,” he said.
“For the most part, everybody failed,” Baffoe said, “and immediately everyone starts to react and laugh and realize we didn’t do such a good job, and the vital resource that is water on our planet suffered as a result.”
The performance served to expose how crucial unified efforts are in preventing climate change. Baffoe said he enjoyed watching the point sink in, while noting that the audience members were still having fun.
Walking through Whittier Park for Bike and Circuses, audience members encountered a total of 15 performers, including other dancers and a contortionist, who explored similar themes.
What made the project especially unique was that engagement with environmental responsibility didn’t stop at the level of content but extended to the creation of the project as a whole, which producer Daina Leitold from Green Kids said was as close to carbon neutral as possible.
The organizers from Green Kids aimed to reduce waste and carbon emissions at all levels, salvaging, reusing and thrifting almost all costumes or props that were used and biking or walking as much as possible, even when transporting materials.
When they did need to drive, the producers, cast and crew would record their mileage. Audience members arriving for the event would also be asked whether they drove, and if so, this mileage would be recorded as well.
Eventually, this information will be sent to a carbon offsetting company to recapture an equivalent amount of carbon through creative solutions such as tree planting and methane capture in dumps.
Carbon offsetting is not an infallible process, said Leitold, but it’s one tangible way that arts organizations can begin to account for their environmental output.
She explained that the heart of the project was engaging audiences in complex environmental themes through art without simply “presenting the problem and then walking away.”
This notion is especially important when working with youth, she said, because “You don’t always want to put the onus of these problems exclusively onto the younger generation.… It’s also important to make them aware that there are things they can do.”
She added that the variety of fun, physical and visceral mediums showcased in Bike and Circuses allowed artists to reach a broader audience. It also demonstrated the importance of movement and action when it comes to climate change.
“Green Kids, having done theatre for so long, it’s really easy to just be on a soap box and give all sthe information with your mouth,” Leitold said. “The abstract nature of [circus and dance] was really exciting for us.”
For his performance in Bike and Circuses,Baffoe noticed the audience collectively experiencing a sense of urgency, which he said was a unique educational moment.
“I think that’s the thing my piece really got across to the audience,” he said, “which is like, no we’re not just going to sit back and wait for a solution to come to you; this is on you right here right now. So we can all laugh through it while still understanding, hey, let’s get to work here.”
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