Jan. 19, 2024

School of Creative and Performing Arts hosts immersive dance experience on climate chaos

Just Breathe, Okâwîmâwaskiy features a decolonized perspective on taking action, runs Jan. 25-26
Sandra Lamouche hoop dancing
Sandra Lamouche performs at last year's show. Tim Nguyen

An immersive dance theatre experience will be taking the stage next week at the University of Calgary, leading audiences through a journey of climate chaos.

Just Breathe, Okâwîmâwaskiy (Just Breathe, Mother Earth) returns Jan. 25 and 26 after a successful run last year. Rather than seating the audience like traditional theatre, the performance sends viewers on a tour through three areas of the University Theatre and outdoors on campus as part of an immersive dance experience on climate chaos. Afterward, audience members can take part in a debrief session to process their experiences of the show.

Cree artist and storyteller Sandra Lamouche and settler artist Melanie Kloetzel, PhD, a professor in the School of Creative and Performing Arts in UCalgary's Faculty of Arts, are the co-creators of the immersive tour.

“It’s a very intense, emotional journey,” says Kloetzel.

Jocelyn Leiver performing

Jocelyn Leiver performs at last year's show.

Tim Nguyen

The idea for the performance came after a climate arts group Kloetzel runs called TRAction contracted Lamouche to create a social media video as part of a project called 10 Ways to Fix the Planet. Kloetzel was so moved by the experience that she asked Lamouche if the two could expand her one-minute short into a full-length live performance.

After its debut performance last year, which was followed by debrief sessions run by psychology PhD student Camille Mori, BA’18 (Dance), BA’18 and MSc’20 (Psychology), Kloetzel says she has a clearer picture of what she expects audience members — or, more precisely, participants — to take away this year.

“People’s responses were so striking in the debrief sessions,” says Kloetzel. “We were amazed at the level of detail the participants observed and how those details provoked animated, but also very amicable, dialogue about the climate crisis.”  

Kloetzel says she hopes the performance generates similar conversations this year, letting people get a better sense of the crisis and how it affects their own lives and the possible actions they can take.

Sandra Lamouche with a hoop in her mouth

Sandra Lamouche at last year's performance.

Tim Nguyen

Kloetzel says she is passionate about this project because, as a mother, she believes in the need to take action for hers and other children’s futures. She also notes that in recent years she has become much more aware of the barriers to climate action in capitalist-dominated cultures. But working with Lamouche and learning about decolonized and Indigenous approaches has been very impactful on her understanding of the climate and ecological crises.

“Intermixing Western ideas of contemporary performance with Indigenous ideas of both contemporary and traditional performance … has made me feel like art can do so much more than I expected,” says Kloetzel. “This transdisciplinary project — which brings together Indigenous, psychological, artistic and somatic approaches — has made me realize the power of bringing different disciplines together to address pressing issues.

“I’ve found this project so satisfying as I’ve discovered that my ability to dialogue with an audience can be so much richer than I realized.”

Tickets for Just Breathe, Okâwîmâwaskiy go on sale Jan. 20 at 12 p.m. Visit the event page for more details. The event is hosted by the Faculty of Arts School of Creative and Performing Arts, and supported by the Office of Sustainability and a UCalgary Transdisciplinary Connector Grant.

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