Dance, plants, and climate

© Michael Eisner

Dance, plants, and climate

Uncovering the co-dependency of well-being

In ihrer Arbeit erforscht Elda Gallo die Wechselbeziehung zwischen Menschen und anderen Lebensformen. Ihre Performance "2070" ist unter anderem von Pflanzen inspiriert und untersucht die Gemeinsamkeiten zwischen der Art und Weise, wie Pflanzen funktionieren, und den Grundlagen des zeitgenössischen Tanzes.

Your work explores the relationship between humans and other forms of life. You play with the tension of disharmony and mutual reliance. How did you research this concept of co-dependency in dance and what did you discover?

Elda Gallo: The term co-dependency can have a negative connotation, but it can be seen as synonymous to mutual support. In fact, it is co-dependence of well-being. Even if we sometimes fall into the illusion of independence and separation, we know that the existence of the different life forms on the planet are only possible because of the existence of other life forms. so not only is our well-being related to the well-being of other species, but also our own existence.

Therefore: could the climate crisis be experienced as a definitive opportunity to learn that oppressing the other means oppressing oneself?

I am curious about translating mutual support into physical support by using the contact between bodies. and how this creates third structures, creatures, and relationships.

In the performance, in the same way that we use physical contact to create support, we use it to create oppression.  What happens if support becomes oppression, and what is the cause that leads us to oppress the other?

In my research, I ask whether the cause that leads us to oppress the other comes from traumas, by researching the correlation between individual and collective trauma and the Anthropocene and thus the climate crisis.

Alina and myself are at the beginning stages of this research, so for now I have concentrated with her on recreating images that I associate with this theme. What we see in the work so far is simply that, if the body is open and does not need to defend itself, harmony and support are created.

If, on the other hand, there is tension within the body, it will lead to defense and/or attack, and disharmony is created.

You say that the piece 2070 (work in progress) is inspired by plants. Can you specify characteristics that resonate in your performance?

Elda Gallo:  When I got to know the way Mancuso describes plants and tried to embody them, I discovered that his description of plants corresponds to some fundamental approaches of contemporary dance, such as: trying to feel the whole body at once, or trying to interact with the space around us and with others. So, I started from there, from what I know and what dance practice has in common with the structural characteristics of plants.

For the performance we focused on the above, trying, as Mancuso describes, to see, feel, breathe, communicate, and understand with the whole body.

 To do this, we have to address the body as a structure that does not depend on a single centre that prevails over the others, but moves with and around different centres of command, which are: in our body, in the body of the other and also between bodies. This approach creates an anti-hierarchical system. 

The performance 2070 can be experienced as both: apocalyptical and recreational. Do you consider your piece as primarily motivated by fear or by hope? Given that it is a work in progress, does your response remain consistent over time?

Elda Gallo: I believe that they are both driving elements holding hands. But I guess that if I didn't feel hope, I wouldn't address the issue.

Actually, more than fear I feel anger and bewilderment at the lethargy of actions and changes we should be implementing. This, too, leads me to the need to face the discourse and ask myself questions about the causes of this phenomenon.

I see the climate crisis as proof that something is systematically problematic in the way we function. But I also see it as an 'opportunity' to ask questions of ourselves as human beings. There have always been catastrophes in human history, but what is interesting to me, in this case, is the deadline. The climate crisis is a focal point for asking ourselves what our priorities are as a species. We have created a problem that sabotages us and brings us to a crossroad: change how we operate or choose not to care about the future and probably go extinct.

I do not have an answer to your question that remains consistent over time, but maybe rather a question:

What factors determine whether we care about a problem or not?

How did your research influence your perspective on life? (not yours per se but the form of life in general)

Elda Gallo: I do not know how my perspective on life has changed, but I do observe how dualism and separatism such as those between:
god — human
man — woman
human — animal
culture — nature
where one side asserts power over the other, leads to dynamics of oppression.

An oppression that I believe ultimately led up to the climate crisis.

Elda Gallo: 2070 (work in progress)

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