Art forms unite over love of ‘Water Body’

April 16, 2008
Athens Banner-Herald
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Art forms unite over love of ‘Water Body’
By Erin Rossiter

Alone, writer Janisse Ray never put the two words together.

“Water Body,” she said, repeating the title again for emphasis. Joined, the words convey deep meaning if one looks past the surface.

That’s why Ray loves them paired just so. “How much of the earth’s body is water? How much of the human body is water?” she asked. “The features on the landscape are water bodies.”

Yet, the Baxley resident never thought of it that way. Not by herself, that is. It took a long talk with friend Susan Murphy to piece together such a phrase, which connects their shared view of nature and the theme of an upcoming aerial dance program at Canopy Studio.

“Water is this thing that we all have to have to live. It cleans us and everything we own. And yet every act we do, almost every act …” Ray said, pausing, is against the natural wonder.

Though their art forms are different, Ray, author of “Ecology of a Cracker Childhood,” and Murphy, executive director of Canopy Studio, the community aerial dance center in Athens, are devoted naturalists and members of the Altamaha Riverkeeper. The nonprofit is dedicated to the protection and defense of Georgia’s largest river, which is fed by the Ocmulgee and Oconee and flows from the middle of the state to the Atlantic Ocean.

Tomorrow, their art forms will unite like tributaries feeding into a performance that will partially illustrate the “shadow side of ourselves that pollute and decimate the world around us.”

That explanation is part of a program written for the Canopy Repertory Company’s “Water Body” program.

Ray’s original poem called “Water” will be read throughout the program. She had planned to read it herself during performances but illness and a scheduling conflict prevented her direct involvement. The poem, she said, was inspired by a similar one she read connecting animals and people.

“(It’s the) same relationship with water. (We) love it. Go stand behind it and watch sunsets. We dive into it totally, joyfully, roll in it, dance in it, float in it,” she said. “Then, we also defecate in it, pour our motor oil in it. And we throw the bodies of dead deer in it.”

Using silks, trapeze, ladders, bungee and other types of equipment, dancers will interpret various sides of water ecology. Michelle Dodson, a graduate student in the University of Georgia Department of Theatre and Film Studies, is co-directing the program with Murphy and will help the group convey the theme through visual and audio presentations. A grant from Ideas for Creative Exploration and community support are helping fund the program for the nonprofit. Proceeds from Friday night’s performance will benefit Altamaha Riverkeeper.

“I’ve come to believe the combination of art forms is more powerful than any one of them solely. I also believe part of the power of collaboration is in doing the work itself. That power comes through in the final product,” Ray said. “I’ve always said that a multiplicity of minds is always better than one mind. I completely believe that. And what people can create together is far more powerful than what any one person can create on their own.”

If you go…

The Canopy Repertory Company trapeze studio will present an aerial dance with spoken word by ecology writer and naturalist Janisse Ray. A video montage by University of Georgia graduate student Michelle Dodson will be a part of the show.