Next week, the UK will host the COP26 UN conference on climate change. We believe that artists and cultural organisations have a special responsibility to use their voices and platforms to raise awareness of the climate emergency, and we have programmed Dance No 2° by choreographer and Work Place artist Sivan Rubinstein to coincide with the conference. Find out more about how her work relates to the climate crisis, sustainable practice in dance making and her love for Generation Z.
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What does the title Dance No 2° mean?
What guided me to this title was all the conversations about the climate emergency, and this tipping point for global warming which scientists say is at 2°. My previous work was about maps and borders and migration, and those conversations guided me directly towards this next project which I realised needs to be about climate. For me, Maps was my dance number 1 and this new work followed directly from that.
What does your collaboration with Dr Sarah Fine bring to your practice?
My journey with Dr Sarah Fine started on Maps. I really wanted to bring more voices to the conversation. Sarah specialises in migration ethics on behalf of the philosophy department at King’s College and I always draw a lot of inspiration from philosophy, so it was a very organic connection. I felt immediately that I met a true collaborator. From then onwards, I discovered more about her world, she discovered more about mine, we made sure to always feed into each other and draw from each other. Sarah also opened the beautiful door of academia to me, and I understood that artists and academics often speak about the same subjects, we just talk about them differently, and I think bringing us together is good for the arts and good for academia, as well.
Tell us more about your research for Dance No 2°!
As a freelancer I think you carry your work with you everywhere. For me, in a creation process things entwine with the stuff I do when I am not actually at work, and I don’t really know what guides what. But all these conversations about climate made me want to go to the desert. I started the year going to Wadi Rum, a beautiful red sandy desert in Jordan, that looks flat like the sea, with hills on the sides, so you feel like you are sailing across an ocean. It fit very organically into my research with King’s about time and climate and transformation: what if the desert used to be a sea? What happened to the land through millions of years?
Later in the year I went sailing for a long period of time with my partner and my father and that was really about isolating ourselves, only taking care of the boat, really working with the sea. When you are this close to nature you cannot really define yourself away from it, you are part of it, you need to live in it and be it. And that’s really what I wanted, to feel nature inside of my body as much as I can.
At the end of the process I went to the desert in Israel and I met a beautiful community, the Hebrew Israelite Community who live in Dimona, a city in the desert. I was dancing with them and got to know them and collaborated with the Zvulon Dance Studio there led by Zfira. It was a very freeing adventure. The little stories that I brought home from those places helped me to create the movement for Dance No 2°.
How has Covid changed your creative process?
Working on a new piece last year during Covid was not easy. My work is really driven by what is contemporary, what is happening right in this moment, and therefore what is about to happen? The climate conversations I had in my mind when I started this project needed to go so much further - because reality had changed. And even though we were delayed, the message almost got more urgent! From a creative aspect, a lot of the piece has changed but perhaps it also allowed it to sink down and fall on really nutritious ground.
On a very practical side, all of us haven’t danced, performed or collaborated for over a year and that of course brings physical and mental difficulties. I think before Covid we were more product driven. Now you need to think about the process rather than the product, and make sure that it’s a healthy process and that you care for the people involved. For me it was very important to try and take it in a holistic approach as much as possible.
Sustainability is something that we considered from the beginning, taking a minimalistic approach, not having what we don’t need, reusing what we can use. All the creative decision were drawn by minimalism. There are so many ways that you can practice sustainability in your life, so many ideas from my team about recycling waste that we’ve been feeding into our practice. Our production money prioritized the people over any material products. That was the philosophy of this entire creation.
What is your impression of young people and their activism, especially around diversity and climate?
I love Generation Z! I think every young generation gives us hope, and I feel like this generation also helps us to have a fresh perspective. There have been so many inspirational protests and voices from the young generation, and conversations that in a way the older generation almost gave up on. And right now are the most crucial years! We cannot afford to give up, now is the last opportunity. Throughout the whole project we have been collaborating a lot with Gen Z, with different universities, trying to gather and uplift those voices and their alternative way of thinking.
Sarah taught me something that really stuck with me: There is no activism without hope. Hope is a fundamental part to encourage the act. Hope is really important for us in the climate conversation, we really just need to talk about it, spread the word in whatever way of communicating we have. The more we talk about it, the more seeds we plant to grow and reach more and more people. Climate is inherently woven into everything we do in our life, there are endless ways to approach this subject, and I have hope that artists can help and encourage those conversations to happen.
Generation Z is innately the most diverse generation and therefore they don’t speak about diversity in the language of the older generation, but only to point out its absence. If you notice the absence of diversity around you it’s important to open your world and hear more points of view and get influenced by more cultures or voices that are different from you. Accents, languages, immigrants, those are people that come with stories to tell! Some of them maybe came here because of climate.
Dance No 2° is a collaboration between so many exceptionally talented artists and the support from The Place allowed this collaboration to happen during a very difficult time to make work. We have an amazing light designer Edward Saunders who created a really beautiful set, a great music team, we are collaborating with a beautiful fashion artists Olubiyi Thomas who curated the amazing costumes, a fantastic dramaturg Xenia Aidonopoulou that I was lucky to work with for the first time, the physical language of the dancers is very profound from their practice in nature – I am very excited. I like this work a lot.
A work by Sivan Rubinstein
Lighting Designer and Scenographer: Edward Saunders
Composer: Liran Donin
Costume Curator: Olubiyi Thomas
Sound Production: Gal Cohen
Dramaturgy Consultant: Xenia Aidonopoulou
Research Composer: Na’ama Zisser
Cast: Harriet Parker-Beldeau, Nathan Goodman, Lydia Walker, Jordan Ajadi
Research additional cast: Ruben Brown, Monika Blaszczak
Assistant Choreographer for R&D: Paul Davidson
Academic Partner: Dr. Sarah Fine, Senior Lecturer King's College London
Creative Producer: Lia Prentaki
Assistant Production Manager: Stacey Nurse
Access Support Worker: Lauryn Pinard
Photos by Bar Alon
Co-produced with The Place. Commissioned by The Place in partnership with King’s College London, with further commissioning support from South East Dance, Corali and Oh Creative Space.
Supported by PRS Foundation’s The Open Fund and using public funding from Arts Council England.