Climate action & Dance

Climate change (CC) is, without a doubt, one of the biggest challenges the human species has ever faced (Howard-Grenville et al., 2014).

From Schaefer et al. (2020, pp. 642-675) standpoint, making sense of climate change varies depending on individuals and organisational priorities, values and experiences. The relationship between values and CC has had exhaustive research with a clear response between the individual’s beliefs and risks perception and, in the arts, the willingness to artistically act in a sustainable manner. CC has a direct linkage with the term vulnerability and adaptation (Jacobson et al., 2017); by building a better “integration” of these terms, one can better serve (with art) the development of climate resilience (Berbes-Blázques et al., 2017). 

Education is an essential term in the understanding of CC issues. Howard-Grenville et al. (2014) referred to it as the way “individuals and society” engage with the knowledge of the CC challenges and the “pro-social” and “pro-environmental” behaviour taken by governments, corporations, dance organisations and individuals in general (Hamann et al., 2019, p. 835-853). One can argue that through education is the only way we can mitigate and adapt valuable policies for the CC issues. Thus, to get educated on how arts can support CC, one has first to make sense of the problem; the sensemaking process will allow us to understand the CC situation, the context in which we need to work (e.g., global warming) and to find alternatives to bounce back from the vulnerable states CC make us experience – making sense of the way CC occurs, in a profound and non-paternalistic way is the only step we can take to address the broader issue (Stine et al., 2018) and the effects of it one cannot control. Williams (2018) argued that in order to adapt to what one cannot control, art organisations need to provide support in understanding the impacts of CC. Having a deep comprehension of the issue will also help to understand the “differential effects” CC has on impacting societal “roles, rights and artistic opportunities” (Huyer and Gumucio 2020). 

A method that serves as an intervention method responsible for producing an effect on the CC issue is the term agency. In this sense, agency relies on the individual’s interaction and responses to what Peeters et al. (2019) call ways of tackling moral disengagement and the reconsideration of the “self-interested” reasons that cause it. It is also essential to assess the vulnerability risks and the adaptive capacity and resilience efforts needed to engage morally with CC. Thus, it will only come from a deep and honest understanding of the imminent “artistic & societal collapse” we are facing if we keep denying our implication in this issue (Bendell 2020). 

The CC language is reflected through a matter of morals and values. Whatever our view might be, one thing is certain; we are all failing to deliver sustainability art to a planet that could survive generations to come. And whether we like it or not, this rests on our capacity for ethical concerns, fairness, responsibility levels and what Peeters et al. (2019) called our ability to morally engaged with the identification of its complexities.

Presently, dance is finding ways to join the fight for climate action. As an act of physical storytelling, dance performances provide audiences with an opportunity to reflect on current times. Audiences can see correlations between the world on stage and the world they live in. When we witness these performances, they stimulate emotion and empathetic insights, two components that can sometimes be missing from the real world of science.
Through dance, environmental science could expand its reach and increase its chances of persistent minimalising patterns of climate change denial and scepticism. Human emotional responses are often triggered by how we individually evaluate an event. When we experience an event, we also begin to have associated thoughts and feelings that accompany this and contribute to our overall emotional connection. Facts cannot create enough power on their own. Therefore, to incite action, climate change messages require an event that connects with its audience emotionally.
The more access we have to climate change stories, our emotional connection will become more intense. Dance is uniquely situated to help science navigate this delicate mix of factual knowledge and empathy to provoke change. In partnership with dance, science can bring these messages to life by capturing our imagination (University of Derby).

© Javier Torres – We Dance Agency