‘Water Dance’ raises awareness for environment

Hannah Brooks, Features editor

The National Honor Society for Dance Arts will be teaming up with National Water Dance (NWD) to bring awareness to the environment and preservation of water with an integrative and educational performance. This event poses three questions for all to consider: In what ways has water been important to us? In what ways do we need and use water? What are the ways that we are grateful for water?

National Water Dance is a collaboration between the National Honor Society for Dance Arts, NWD, and Amy Parente, associate professor of Biology, who will be conducting a talk about water after the performance. 

This will be the fifth iteration of the performance in Erie, with this year’s performance titled “The Ripple Effect,” according to Jenna Fritts, senior Dance major and president of the National Honor Society for Dance Arts.

“NWD began as a state-wide project in 2011, and has expanded to over 65 locations across the United States,” said Fritts. “In 2018, the event expanded to include Puerto Rico for the first time.”

According to the website for NWD, “with each event, National Water Dance recommits itself to the effort of increasing purposeful awareness to drive action on environmental issues, specifically climate change. Supporting the work of our participants beyond our biannual events, National Water Dance spreads the word on the environmental issues they are tackling through monthly newsletters and social media. Our goal is to realize the power of dance as an engine of social change.”

Fritts adds that Erie’s NWD particularly focuses on effects of climate change on our regional waterways, specifically Lake Erie, with help from Mercyhurst’s Dr. Amy Parente. Fritts also explained that regional water testing has shown levels of micro plastic content and treatment plant resistant toxins from human use, such as chemical products and pills not extracted via water treatment systems.

Fritts has been busy working on this event, collaborating with other officers, the society’s advisor Solveig Santillano and coordinating with members of the Erie community to put everything together to make the event happen. Some of the contributors so far include departments from Mercyhurst including Dance, Art, English and Chemistry; National Honors Society for Dance Arts; Mercyhurst Ambassadors and the Honors Program.

Various other artists from the Erie community will provide their artwork for the event, along with crafts such as wearable art pieces, weaving projects, puppets and more.

“We have been busy doing things such as finding a location and contacting other departments and other students to find contributors,” said Fritts. “We have also been setting rehearsals to learn the opening and closing dance phrases that are performed to kick off NWD and bring it to a close.”

The honor society’s advisor Solveig Santillano also adds that the process is very exciting, as well as very busy, though it is rewarding to see everything come together at the end.

“It is always super fun, exciting, and exhausting,” said Santillano. “I am trying to create conversation, to not just make dance and art, but to make dance and art that is inspired by a purpose, to increase awareness for water concerns, inspire greater water stewardship – in a way that inspires conversation, water appreciation, and enhanced care.”

Santillano and Fritts both add that they are thankful for the opportunity to put this event together, as well as thankful for the help of all those involved in the event.

“I am super grateful for all the collaborators,” said Santillano. “It really takes a village, and Jenna has been an amazing help.”

“I have enjoyed being able to meet and collaborate with other Mercyhurst departments and artists,” said Fritts. “Coordinating everything has been stressful at times, but everybody has been so supportive in helping. This event is teaching me so many professional skills that will help make me invaluable to a professional dance company to help promote events.”

All students are not only invited, but highly encouraged to attend this event. Fritts says that the event will be one that is “interactive, stimulating, and educational,” in addition to giving students the opportunity to watch the performances of other artists together in one space. All involved in the event are working hard to make it one that is enjoyable for all.

This event is one that you will not want to miss – make sure you take the time to attend, not only to appreciate the art and performances of Mercyhurst students and the community, but to reflect within and ask yourself how you can conserve and be grateful for water. The performances will take place at the Erie Maritime Museum on April 23, from 4 to 6 p.m.