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STREET-TREE STEWARDANCE: Urban Forest Stewardship as Movement Practice

Project website: http://stewardance.com/

Collaborators: Jaqueline Dodd and Philip Silva

STEWARDANCE will explore and build a collaborative language and process between dance and street-tree stewardship. Philip Silva and choreographer Jackie Dood envision their shared creative process as embodied research. Through their investigations they will address the following questions:

1) How do street-tree stewardship and dance each structure the way we gather information through the senses about NYC’s urban forest? What information does each discipline prioritize? Do they personalize or de-personalize their findings? What effect does this have on the researcher, project, and public?
2) How do dance and street-tree stewardship each approach the idea of “functionality?” How do they each understand the envisioning of a “goal,” and the process of “reaching” it?
3) Can we conceive of every step in the stewardship process as choreography? From learning the ecological systems of the urban forest, to sharing information between teachers, community groups, computer scientists, and public street life, to entering data for an online map, to accomplishing the physical stewardship tasks, how does a consideration of choreography influence each element of the stewardship process?

The ways Jackie practices dance, and Phil practices street-tree stewardship, share a commitment to sensory aptitude, awareness, and presence. However, these two applications of their senses have previously sought different ends: in stewardship, Phil used the senses to amass information as fact, and in dance, Jackie used them to connect to information as subjective experience. The STEWARDANCE collaborators will engage the heightened inner awareness and emotional vigor of dance with the material groundedness of ecological stewardship as an embodied sustainability strategy, which will be their mode of operation as they undertake each stewardship task: learning the ecological systems of the urban forest, gathering scientific data, physically laboring at stewardship, dialoguing with passerby, and coordinating team members. These experiments will occur wherever the task does- on the street, in the classroom, and in each of our own sensate bodies.

Project Collaborators
Philip Silva is Program Manager for GreenBridge at Brooklyn Botanic Garden with wide ranging experience working on urban environmental policy and stewardship initiatives. He has managed street tree projects in Hunts Point for Sustainable South Bronx, created standards for community gardening governance in Prospect Heights, and developed advocacy-based curricula for environmental stewards throughout the city.

Jackie Dodd is a Brooklyn-based emerging choreographer and dancer whose work ranges from concert dance, musical theatre, site-specific performance, physical therapy research (on contact improvisation with Parkinson’s Disease patients), to community work with ex-convicts, senior citizens, and disadvantaged youth.

Stewardance_Part1 from Jennifer Monson on Vimeo.

Stewardance Part 2 from Jennifer Monson on Vimeo.

Notes from the STEWARDANCE Collaborators:

Philip Silva – For me, the most valuable experience of the residency was the process of open-ended exploration with Jackie. I think I’d reached a point in my personal and professional lives where I felt, at some level, a need for mindful movement and body awareness. Working with Jackie helped me transform the academic metaphor of the “urban forest” into an emotional understanding of the environment I call home. Our readings together and our weekly meetings – many of them in the form of hikes through different urban landscapes – helped me tap an emotional source of inspiration for my professional work. The residency made me more confident in my other collaborations and in my teaching practice. At the end of the day, the most valuable experience was all of the time I spent with Jackie and the rigor and joy she brought to our collaboration.

Jacqueline Dodd – Most valuable to me, in this residency, was my and Phil’s having total control over the direction and content of our project. Because we were allowed to work so independently, seeking iLAND staff’s guidance only when we were ready for it, I felt free to bring up questions and issues that are sometimes stymied by having to produce regular, neat reports for authority. Independence was our nursery for a new process of professional collaboration. The innovative approach we developed might not be different in content from collaborative processes generally; many collaborations involve lunch, books, tea, bike rides, and conversations. However, Phil and I chose to approach those activities with specific intentions. We decided to value ourselves within our activities, to ask each other how we were feeling that day, if we were comfortable or not, what we were worried about or excited for. We tried to welcome, rather than hide from, the hard or awkward questions that are generally considered private issues, not part of a professional interaction, even though they fundamentally determine the success of collaboration.



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