Hardly a week goes by without seeing news about the alarming pace and extent of climate change, from rising sea levels to record-setting temperatures in the Bay Area and beyond.
But lost among this torrent of data, policy measures and updated climate models is a different side of climate change -- one which Bay Area choreographer KT Nelson wants people to see, and more importantly, feel.
“Perhaps one of the things we need today is to address climate change from a more emotional point of view,” says Nelson, who co-directs ODC, a San Francisco dance company founded in 1971.
Inspired by a sabbatical she took to Death Valley in 2013, Nelson created Dead Reckoning, a production that explores the anxiety, indifference and panic brought on by a world transformed and threatened by climate change.
“In Dead Reckoning, there is this lime-green snow, or confetti, that first starts coming from the dancer’s hands, and eventually it comes from the sky,” Nelson says. “Nothing in nature is like that.”
Complementing this visual metaphor is the soundtrack to Dead Reckoning, which is composed by renowned former Kronos Quartet cellist Joan Jeanrenaud.
The title of Nelson’s work is itself a cautionary metaphor. Sailors typically use dead reckoning to estimate their position at sea based on past measurements. The technique is useful when celestial observations aren’t available owing to thick cloud cover.
Jeanrenaud layers multiple cello tracks on top of each other and changes their tempo in key sections of the piece. She uses the cello’s broad musical range to capture different moods, from aching sorrow to frantic urgency, as dancers variously collide into each other, run in place and dance romantically.
“Today, where we are with climate change is we are navigating blindly,” Nelson says.
Dead Reckoning had its world premiere last year at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts where it returned this year for four performances in March. If you missed it, you can watch the entire performance on ODC’s web site.