Body of Water Project

Students perform in Body of Water.

The Project: Body of Water is a cross-disciplinary performance piece that incorporates scientific research, choreography, videography, and music composition.

The Group: A class of 16 students along with professors Jane Hawley (dance), Jodi Enos-Berlage (biology), Jon Ailabouni (music), and recent alum Ian Carstens ’14

An Interdisciplinary Approach

Dancers and scientists created a performance, Body of Water, that highlights issues of water quality in Iowa. Student Catherine Lewis says, “The goal of this collaboration was to make Body of Water digestible to everyone. We wanted to present scientific information with human representations. We felt when more people understood the message, the more likely they would take action in helping protect water.”

Hawley wanted to create a dance that shared Enos-Berlage’s research about the local watershed. ”We wanted to inform as many people as possible about the topic and do so in a positive way,” Hawley says. “The goal of the performance is to encourage or inspire people to make change within farming and urban practices on how they use/abuse water.”

Bringing Diverse Backgrounds and Knowledge Together

As a dance artist, I really like to collaborate,” Lewis says. “Especially for this project, it was great to see what each person had to contribute. It involved science majors, dance majors, or those with both majors, and everyone had personal experience with water.” She says that each person's background and knowledge helped create a fuller, more enriched work.

Hawley says the differences became an exciting part of the project. All of the students discovered something new about water,” she says. “They learned what it meant to become engaged in sustainable farming practices and small things like how they can brush their teeth and do the dishes with less water.”

Making the Pieces Fit

Berlage shared a lot of her research and gave lectures on water to the group of dancers. Student Taylor Berg says, “She taught us a lot about the molecular structure and properties of water and the ecological implications of Iowa’s agricultural industries. We were then able to communicate these topics through music, video, and movement.”

Hawley facilitated the dance rehearsal process. “Some of us would observe water to create a dance phrase, or simply journal about our water consumption,” Lewis says. “Some people in the group focused on putting the dance phrases together to make the piece flow in a cohesive way. Others worked on scientific research and some created musical scores based on water. After working independently, we’d come back together to weave the components together.”

Using Art to Express Social Issues

Lewis felt this process helped her see the value of a liberal arts education. “It was a great learning experience,” Lewis says, “The project required us to consider various perspectives and use different ways of thinking to address a specific issue.”

Berg believes they accomplished what they set out to do with this project. “It was very rewarding for me to work alongside these talented researchers and artists to make a huge and hopefully long-lasting impression on water management and preservation.”