A conversation with Dale Andree, artistic director, National Water Dance

By Julie Travers

Miami Dances features insight into traditional and nontraditional dance programs, performers and choreographers.  Dale Andree is a graduate of the Boston Conservatory of Music and adjunct faculty at New World School of the Arts. She has performed and taught nationally and internationally with her company Mary Street Dance Theatre and also worked under the direction of May O’Donnell, Pearl Lang, Paul Sansardo, Anna Sokolow, Elaine Summers and others. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Florida Dance Association and has been actively involved in bringing improvisation and site-specific dance to the Miami community. Working with Daniel Lewis, director of Miami Dance Futures and former Dean of Dance at New World School of the Arts, she has created an environmental project called National Water Dance.

ABC: Tell us about your exciting and unique dance project. DA: National Water Dance is a live streamed, site-specific, simultaneous dance performance across the United States created to bring focus to our national water issues. Inspired by the work of Rudolf Luban who created movement choirs with masses of people in the early 20th century and Mary Lee Hardenbergh’s work with movement choirs in “One River Mississippi” I decided to use the power of dance to focus attention and energy on our water resources.  In 2011 we mobilized Florida choreographers and students in arts and education programs from primary schools to universities for site specific dance performances events at water sites throughout the state. It was so successful  that participating choreographers prompted us to develop a national event. In April of 2014 we launched National Water Dance with projects at water resources throughout the United States. The Deering Estate at Cutler hosted the Miami-Dade performance. Over 80 institutions in 26 states participated. The objective of National Water Dance is to use the power of dance to effect social change by creating awareness around the need to conserve and protect our water resources. The beauty of the project is that all the participating organizations are independent in creating their choreography but also share in a movement phrase that connects all of the dancers and programs in a single event. Hundreds of dancers, environmentalists and interested citizens participated. The flow of dozens of unique dance projects were live streamed online and can still be seen on You Tube. We are planning an event on Miami Beach in January 2015 and in 2016 we will be presenting the national event again. Visit our website to learn more.

ABC: What inspired you to create the project? DA: My initial motivation was as a teacher of pre-professional dancer/artists. I wanted to expand their understanding of performance, in terms of where it could happen and what it could be about. Movement Choirs have traditionally been used as a way to bring attention to environmental issues. My original concept of inspiring young artists grew to embrace the need to take responsibility for our waters and to use dance as a way to address these issues and bring attention to them through performance.

ABC: How would you describe your style of dance and techniques you incorporate? DA: I work with improvisation. Finding the way a dancer or any individual chooses to move when given a directive can be a liberating experience for the mover and for the choreographer, opening up movement possibilities that neither might have thought of. I like to choreograph from improvisational structures setting the movement from the exploration. Depending on the openness and ability of the dancers we often leave moments of improv within the choreography throughout the performance.

ABC: What is something fun most people don’t know about you? DA: Maybe how much I love the water.  I was inspired to do the Water Dance project because I am definitely a water baby. All of my astrological signs are water signs and I know that if I was ever an animal, I was a seal. I love being under the water more than on top of it. I wish I could stay under the water indefinitely, but without an oxygen tank. I used to scuba dive and the most disappointing thing about it for me was just how noisy it was to breathe with a tank. I prefer the silence of snorkeling except for the fact that I can’t stay under water very long.

ABC: What does it take, physically, mentally and emotionally to develop a project? DA: It takes everything you’ve got. The statement, “just putting one foot in front of the other,” is so true.  You have to be able to see your goal but the work is always in the present. It’s one more email, it’s a deadline, a phone call and in the midst of it all it’s taking time in the studio and remembering what drives the project: Being an artist. Finding the balance between administrative responsibilities and creating art, however humble, sometimes means making choices. I don’t ever want to forget what motivated me and that’s my love of dance and working with dancers.

ABC: What kinds of obstacles have you encountered in your creative process and how did you overcome them? DA: Time and expectations may be two of the biggest obstacles. There is never enough time, so you have to choose what’s important in the process and what you have to accept in the final presentation, or let go of.  Which leads to expectations. Integrity is important to me in whatever I do and so is the expectation to direct dancers toward the best they can be. But sometimes, circumstances challenge the expectations that I have and I have to readjust to the abilities, the time constraints, the particular situation that I’m working in and decide if the final “picture” is more important than the experience the dancers have creating it.  I’m very drawn to process and I believe that ultimately the final product is most successful when the participants can buy into it, and that can mean that I have to adapt my expectations to the situation.

ABC: How fulfilling is movement, physically or otherwise? DA: Movement is a constant in our lives. We’re never still until we die, so I would change that question to how fulfilling is LIFE, physically or otherwise? Incredibly satisfying. Walking down the street can be a conversation with body parts. Seriously, when you feel the power of your pelvis moving forward as you walk you can feel like you own the world. Dance is just an extension of the body’s love of moving.

About Miami Dances Blog Miami is home to exceptional dance companies, dance performances and dance events. Miami Dances is an Arts & Business Council initiative that helps build new audiences and create visibility for dance in our community. Blog author, Julie Travers is a former dancer with a passion for dance and Miami. The blog will feature local dance legends, up and comers and dance insiders. Like us on Facebook to get all the inside scoop on dance in Miami. Visit our blog salon