Waterways is an interdisciplinary exploration of and homage to the most vital element of life-water. 

It began with an original idea brought forth in a chance meeting by Bala Sarasvati, Artistic Director of CORE Concert Dance Company and David Bryant, Communications Coordinator of the Sea Grant College – headquartered in the University of Georgia Marine Sciences. 

In their first meeting, David Bryant described the complete water ecosystem existing in the state of Georgia consisting of rivers and streams, the marsh, rain, estuaries and the ocean. David subsequently coordinated a two day trip to the Georgia coast for the dancers. They gained first hand experiences leading to their interpretation of Georgia’s watershed system. Following this trip, Sarasvati led the dancers in improvisation sessions based on their ideas and images resulting from this trip and together, they began to craft and shape some of the choreography for the full-length piece. 

The Dancers traveled to Wassau Island,off the cost of Savannah, Georgia, a beautiful barrier island with an unspoiled natural beach on one side and an elaborate system of marshes and estuaries on the other. It is a controlled natural preserve that cannot be reached by car. Since the context of the dance was based on several components of the water system – it was an excellent opportunity for the performers to learn about and experience this magnificent ecosystem. The performers spent a day on Wassau Island and saw how the inland rivers and streams feed and nourish the marshes and how this system interfaces with the sea.

-David Bryant, Coordinator, Georgia Sea Grant 

At the same time, through ICE meetings, several members from various artistic backgrounds were brought together under in a series of meetings under the leadership of Carmon Colangelo. Sarasvati introduced the concept of a dance piece to artists who had gathered together to discuss the formation of ICE. Bala extended an invitation to ICE members to participate in this interdisciplinary exploration. Several artists began to discuss possibilities which led to contributing their own artistic ideas, crafts and artistic/technical expertise to the making of the Waterways piece. 

Waterways, a 28 minute piece in length, opened with River and Streams choreographed by Susan Murphy, aerial trapeze artist. The choreographer created fluid aerial movement for five dancers who performed on five trapezes suspended on stage. The piece, with flowing deep blue plastic backdrop, set the scene. The dancers, suspended upside down, supported the watery theme through their movement. 

Following this section of the piece, four male dancers, moved up from the ground in Marshes, an abstract movement piece adapted from 1987 work Bugs, original music by Keeler. The entire piece contrasted images in the previous aerial work, performed with bodies of the dancers restrained to the lower area of the stage. 

David Saltz, Director of the Drama interactive Performance Lab collaborated with Bala Sarasvati to develop the concept “rain cycles.” Saltz established that the use of interactive sensor devices would be appropriate for this section, entitled “Water Over Earth” and that it would be interesting to use movement sensor technology to provide a full-stage environment of changing weather. Once the concept was established, five Drama students (Kathryn Hammon, Kenny Kilfara, Lee Smith, Josh Henry, Neeraja Patwardhan) took on the project and designed a computer driven installation that responded to sensors wired to dancers. A rear screen projected visual backdrop, projections on the dancers and yards of material that extended from the dancers. and sound was also determined by dancers via sensor-movement response feedback. 

Molissa Fenley, renown post modern choreographer and guest artist for the UGA Department of Dance in 2001, developed Aquarium Trio. This piece, performed in silence, was designed in front of a distinctive visual backdrop painted by guest visual artist Roy Fowler and specific lighting design by David Griffith to established a confined space in a large oceanic environment. 

In Estuaries, Chic Ball, Music Composition/Theory faculty designed an interactive sound installation through the use of live dual cameras, MAX/MSP and softVNS software on Macintosh computer, sound was created during live performance responding directly to the dancers’ movement solos and duet. 

Undercurrents, filmed and edited by Bala Sarasvati, was projected onto
downstage scrim enlarging the emerging and submerging dancers in water. The film focussed on faces, 25X35 feet in size, directly in front of the audience. 

In the final section of the piece, twelve dancers gradually filled the dimly lit stage clad in reflective silver and gold costumes that, when reflected by light, looked as though they were fish swimming in a dark ocean. A downstage projection of a digitally rendered ocean with animated ocean creatures, created by visual artist David Koffman, added a rich visual layering to the environment. During the progression of the eight minute Ocean section, the digitally rendered ocean image gradually filled the stage with water and subsided.

The process of making of Waterways demonstrated one way the creation of an interdisciplinary work with multi-faceted procedures, perspectives and artistic/technical expertise can evolve. Three choreographers, a musical composer, a drama professor and five drama actor/director/technicians, three visual artists, lighting designer and a scientist/educator co-created the work. Additionally, two costume designers, joined the project during its production phase. Twelve undergraduate students performed the work, gaining an invaluable experience in multimedia collaboration. These students also experienced – and embodied- nature on a level that will remain in their memory for a life time. The piece began with a natural concept -water- and fluidity was a key element to the process of the collaborated efforts. ICE, serving as a forum for several artists, was critical to the formation of this work. The notion of the process of collaboration and a collaborative studio has been discussed at many ICE meetings and this project allowed the concepts to be practiced.

Heather Abernathy, Lisa Benjamin, Ashley Brunning, Ashley Goodrich, Shawn Evangelista, Erik Hogan, Antony Luis, Maryn Mills, Meaghan Muller, Tracy Sickles, Nicole Stansbury, Joshua Stewart

Leonard Ball, David Bryant, Molissa Fenley, Roy Fowler, David Griffith, Kathryn Hammond, Josh Henry, Kenny Kilfara, David Koffman, Susan Murphy, Neeraja Patwardhan, David Saltz, Bala Sarasvati, Lee Smith

Primary funding for the work:
Center for Humanities and Arts
Franklin College of Arts and Sciences
Georgia Sea Grant College
School of Health and Performance Ramsey Lecture Series