This article is published through our Regional Reporter Program. We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts through the Digital Now initiative.
This spring and summer, Jobel Art for Earth is releasing a series of 12 dance videos aimed at starting conversations about environmental issues. Jobel, an international multimedia communications company, created project teams across Canada in September 2021, each of which worked with environmental experts to create this series, Transformations. The series features choreographers from Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.
In 2015, Jobel Art for Earth decided they wanted to contribute to the global conversations happening around social justice, climate change and equity. In each of their endeavours, therefore, they began building partnerships with organizations that work inside communities addressing these topics at regional and national levels. Whenever the company touches on environmental or social topics in their performances, their work is informed by experts to facilitate the transfer of knowledge through the language of art.
“The movement of the human body, it’s a universal and powerful language,” said Marinella Montanari, executive director of Jobel Art for Earth.
The company was founded in Italy in 1998, and the Canadian division started producing work in 2018.
Transformations’ four-project structure was born from the fact that the artists could not get together in person due to the pandemic. The pieces focus on the idea of transforming a problem into possible solutions. Each city involved has a different topic and a different team of artists; each team is releasing a series of three online videos.
“It’s kind of a little miracle,” said Montanari, “because months ago we didn’t have anything, and now we have these videos, and it’ll prove what we have done in this difficult year.”
Calgary choreographer Meghann Michalsky is curious to discover if this form of presenting art can cause and create more shifts in how people think about these particular environmental issues.
“I think people always need a reminder, a reminder to continue recycling, to continue speaking our ideals and our values and [to continue pushing] our corporations to think differently,” she said.
Dance artist Heather Ware, who is working on the Calgary project, believes in the power of dance, in its ability to create empathy.
“If we care more about the people that we’re in the world with, then I think that will trickle down to [encourage people to] care more about the world that we are living in,” Ware said.
Montanari agrees: “If we can change our relationship with each other, we can change our relationship with our planet, and we can make a difference.” She is also excited about the artists’ capacity to create a feeling of hope through these projects, given each’s focus on optimism.
Michalsky is focused on renewable energy in her dance series. The work for Jobel has taken her to a wind farm outside of Calgary and to several greenhouses in the province. Some of her dance performances in her series take place in a pond.
Ware loves the physicality of this project. She is thrilled to be creating work outside and feels like it speaks to the core of Transformations.
“The elements are speaking back to you as you are attempting to move,” Ware said. Unlike in a theatre space, there is no control over the elements outside; instead it’s a dialogue between them and the human body.
“Sometimes,” said Michalsky, “even though the dark times are very long and they may feel permanent, [in the end], it is impermanent. Like the wind, it comes and goes, and how do you keep standing?”
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