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Mercyhurst Dancers making waves

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Dance may not conjure up thoughts of environmental stewardship, but an original performance by Mercyhurst University dancers on the shores of Lake Erie may very well change that.

At present, the dancers are choreographing a series of three interpretative dances meant to bring attention to environmental issues, specifically water. They’ll perform Saturday, April 12, at 4 p.m. on Presque Isle’s Beach 6 in collaboration with the National Water Dance project, an event taking place simultaneously at waterways across the nation.

The local event is being orchestrated by the Mercyhurst Dance Department, Nu Delta Alpha Honors Dance Club and faculty adviser Solveig Santillano, along with the support of students and faculty from various programs on campus, among them public health, chemistry, sustainability studies and graphic design. Student organizers include Emily Reed, Nu Delta Alpha president; Rachel Cockerham, vice president; Alex Orenstein, treasurer; Angela Trivelli, secretary; and Emily McAveney and Katie Boatright of the group's advertising team.

“I love projects where our students can engage their artistry with a purpose and, in this case, impact the community,” Santillano said.

Every state, county and town in the U.S. has a water issue, be it drought, overuse or pollution. Each participating location will identify the most significant water issue affecting their community and create awareness through dance.

One of the issues Mercyhurst wants to draw attention to is the presence of chemicals in beach waters. Mercyhurst researchers, led by Amy Parente, Ph.D., have identified several emerging contaminants at Presque Isle, including fluoxetine, triclosan, estradiol and diuron, as well as the artificial sweetener sucralose. All of these chemicals have been shown to have negative health consequences in organisms from bacteria to humans. 

A yearlong Mercyhurst project, Fresh Face Forward, led by associate professor Anne Zaphiris, Ph.D., of the Organizational Leadership graduate program, has drawn attention to toxins associated with personal care products that are seriously impacting the environment, especially water.

A number of the Mercyhurst groups will share their scientific data and information on water issues at Mercyhurst’s annual Wellness Fair on Friday, April 4, as a segue to the dancers’ performance on April 12 at Beach 6.

Meanwhile, every performance group across the nation participating in the National Water Dance project will begin their dance promptly at 4 p.m., opening and closing with the same movement phrase as a show of unity. The rest of the dance is at the discretion of the individual choreographers.

For more information on the nationwide event, visit the nationalwaterdance.org website. It is hoped that Erie’s dance performance will featured on the website as part of a live feed.