Dancing with the Natural World

by | Feb 11, 2022 | Heartivist Of The Week

Imagine dancing upon a beautiful, wooden dance deck that lives among a lush landscape of gardens and trails on a warm summer afternoon. The sun kisses your skin as you move across the floor and through the space exploring the connection between your body and the landscape. While this has all the makings of an exquisite dream, the reality is that this dance deck exists and it was created by the imaginative, awe-inspiring dance company, Tori Lawrence + Co.

Founded by director, choreographer and filmmaker, Tori Lawrence, this collaborative of dancers, musicians, filmmakers, and multimedia artists is exploring the relationship between the body and landscapes through site-specific dance performances and dance films. In looking to create a space where dancers could build community and create work that explores what lies at the heart of dancing with the environment, Tori imagined a dance deck as part of their Western Massachusetts landscape.

Dance maker Anna Halperin and her husband and landscape architect, Lawrence, had created a dance deck among the redwoods of Marin County, California in 1954. Inspired by this idea, Tori, Ellie Goudie-Averill, dancer and company manager, and their student intern began to look into how to fund a deck of their own and found the Pollination Project.

“Working on the grant application was one of my favorite parts of the summer,” said Ellie. “It helped us to articulate what we were doing and the importance of dancing upon the same beautiful land that you are working on. We were new to applying for grants and needed help to build this deck so when we received The Pollination Project grant it was such a wonderful moment for us.”

With the grant, the dream became a reality in which dancing bodies were carrying wood and building the floor – the very foundation – they would create upon. The deck was designed by Tori Lawrence + Co sound designer and carpenter, Seth Wenger, and built with the help of Kevin Lips, Josh Doster, Sha Harrell, Jenna Riegel, and six work exchange residents. From putting each piece of the deck together to dancing in the garden and on the trails, the experience of creating a space in which to be with Nature had a powerful effect on everyone.

“One student who was both a botany and dance major made a physical catalog of the plants and then brought that energy – inspired by the plants – to a dance. It was actually the first dance that happened here on this deck,” Ellie said.

Throughout the summer, this team was not only working together, they were learning together and all the knowledge they were acquiring was integrating itself into their dances.

“The work became more intimate and attuned as the summer progressed. It took on more of an improvisation-based approach. We were seeing the similarities in how Nature is arranged – the textures and sounds of it – and we were empathizing with it, not trying to destroy it but instead looking to build with it.  People started taking more risks and they were becoming more sensitive to their environment,” Tori shared.

After being inside during the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a new sense of joy within each member of the community and a deep appreciation for being able to be outdoors. The creation of this deck brought people together in jubilant celebration of bodies observing, respecting and dancing among Nature; it became a celebration of what it means to be alive.

“We are expanding our practice, expanding the idea of what dance can be. Having lived through this pandemic, I think we are learning how to pay attention in a different way, how to go outside with the body and explore places. Dance training doesn’t really take the students outside but in creating dance films and now this dance deck, I hope to illustrate that there isn’t a divide between dancing and living,” said Tori.

Tori Lawrence + Co are partnering with the town of Chesterfield, Massachusetts on an upcoming film screening project with community classes and – much like the dance deck – this is another illustration of the way they are building bridges within communities and between nature and people. These abstract, other worldly dances are an invitation for an audience – one that does not sit the way one might in a theater but instead travels around the space along with the dancers – to explore and celebrate what it means to honor our environment and our bodies while living on this stunning planet we all call home.


Call for our Spanish speaking followers 👇

🐮🐷🐔🐣 ¡Te invitamos a unirte a la octava edición del Retiro de Meditación para Activistas por los Animales! 🧘🏻‍♀️ Este evento gratuito, dirigido a activistas hispanohablantes, se llevará a cabo los días 4 y 5 de mayo de 2024 a través de Zoom, y estará guiado por nuestro facilitador, Tashi Nyima.

❔ ¿Por qué participar? Sabemos que muchos activistas por los animales enfrentan desafíos emocionales que pueden afectar su capacidad para seguir adelante. 📣🆘

✅ En este retiro, aprenderás valiosas estrategias de autocuidado para fortalecer tu mundo interior y hacer que tu activismo sea más compasivo y efectivo. 🫶🏼✊🏼

INSCRIPCIONES GRATUITAS EN: https://lu.ma/retiromayo2024 

¡Ayúdanos a difundir esta invitación entre tus contactos comprometidos con la causa! 🌱💚

#activistas #animalistas #meditacion #derechosanimales #animalrights #animalactivism #heartivism
🌟 Empowering Through Play! 🌟

Nature Trust (Tamilnadu, India) launched the project, "Enhance the Skills of Children with Disabilities through Play," supported by one of our seed grants 🎉✨ Timed with World Autism Awareness Day 2024, this initiative resonates with the theme of "Empowering the Autistic Voices."

In particular, the grant allowed Nature Trust to provide specially curated play materials to 20 remarkable children with diverse disabilities. These tools were thoughtfully selected to ignite their development and unlock their potential. 🧩🎨

At the distribution event held on March 31st, the atmosphere was filled with joy as children and parents expressed gratitude for the newfound importance of play in their lives. 💖👦👧 The presence of local leaders underscored the significance of inclusive initiatives like this one.

Beyond distribution, Nature Trust volunteers engaged with the children, creating lasting connections and memories. 🤝 

Through the power of play, Nature Trust is fostering a more inclusive world where every child has the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential. 🌈 

Let's continue spreading joy and empowerment through play! 

#EmpowerThroughPlay #InclusiveCommunities 🌟 
#childrenwithdisabilities #autism #supportchildren #kindness #heartivism #India
It's Volunteer Month! 🌟 🌟 🌟 Today we celebrate our grant advisors working on Economic Development focus area.

By meticulously selecting projects for our seed grants, they're not just funding ideas—they're empowering communities and sparking transformative change. 

Join us in celebrating their invaluable efforts and the positive impact they're creating together!

🔸 Eric Anorrey (Ghana)
🔸 Mariam Nakiryowa (Uganda)
🔸 Jean-Marie Zihalirwa (DRC)
🔸 Emily Logiron Asekon (Kenya)
🔸 Georgia Bernbaum (USA) 
🔸 Herve Tsoala Kuete (Cameroon)
🔸 Jackson Bizimungu (Rwanda)
🔸 Okumu Dickson (Uganda)
🔸 Samuel Litunya (Kenya)


#volunteermonth #volunteer #heartivism #economicdevelopment #change #empoweringcommunities
The Green Earth Initiative (#Cameroon) is a project dedicated to educating and empowering students about climate change, sustainable development, and environmental challenges, that has received a seed grant from The Pollination Project in 2023. With a focus on fostering environmental protection and conservation, the initiative establishes Eco-clubs and Environment Clubs in schools, providing students with the tools to learn, engage, and take action in their communities.

Since receiving the grant from TPP, the Green Earth Initiative has expanded its reach, now encompassing 9 additional schools across two regions/cities, surpassing its initial goal of 5. 
This expansion was made possible by the overwhelming interest from school authorities and the growing number of volunteers and team members.

Through the support of TPP and other partners, the project's environmental education programs, awareness campaigns, and initiatives have impacted over 8000 students in two cities of Cameroon. Additionally, the initiative has planted over 600 trees, launched 5 Environment/Eco Clubs, and distributed over 150 adapted waste bins produced from recycled plastics, contributing to proper waste management practices.

The seed grant from The Pollination Project has been instrumental in catalyzing the growth and success of the Green Earth Initiative, enabling it to make a tangible difference in the lives of students and communities, while fostering a culture of environmental stewardship and sustainability. 

#environmentprotection #seedgrant #heartivism #environmentaleducation