Connected \\ June 12, 2019
Movement in nature
On a hot day in late August my creative partner Jeff Ledellaytner and I ventured into the Crane Beach Dunes with a backpack full of both hiking and filming gear. After hiking a mile in the deep sand, the path opened up to a flat expanse with prickly green shrubs and views of the rolling dunes and Atlantic Ocean. The late afternoon sun became a spotlight and with a nod, Jeff set out in search of the best angle. I kicked off my sandals and began to stretch quietly, taking in the feedback of the site. Tuning into the soft breeze, the distant sounds of waves, and the striated colors where dunes met beach and beach met waves, I began improvising, channeling the feedback through my body.
iEmbody Nature is a video installation composed of 28 site specific dance videos of 12 natural sites along the North Shore in Massachusetts. This is part of PEM’s new installation called The Pod, in the museum’s Dotty Brown Art & Nature Center which investigates our place in nature through contemporary art, memorable objects and interactive experiences. For each site, as dancer and producer, I combined my knowledge of outdoor adventure leadership and artistic movement to explore, analyze, and portray aspects of the natural world with my body. By first scouting sites, I was able to get a general sense of their highlights and undiscovered places. Scouting consisted of hiking and mountain biking around the 12 sites marking maps, taking reference photos, and absorbing the energy of the site and its visitors. However, once I was joined by my director of photography, Jeff Ledellaytner, my vision could be actualized through his keen eye for framing and following my movements. Together we collaborated on each video as we discovered new, inspiring aspects of each site dependent on the light, weather and visitor interaction.
The videos are not intended to be a performance. Like a painter paints a landscape, I am using my body – which is of nature – to mirror and translate multiple levels and sensory inputs from the natural world. Think of your own movements when you approach a waterfall. Do you take a deep inhale? Spread your arms? Exhale into a relaxed stance? The work amplifies the intrinsic reactions our bodies feel when present in nature. My movements translate sounds, shapes, colors, life, and light into movement, connecting me to that specific place. There was no preliminary choreography and often only a couple takes per area within a site. I rarely looked at footage in the field, instead trusting whatever we recorded and moving on. This ephemeral quality to the way we worked fit within the context of site specific improvisation, as well as nature’s inherent ephemerality. It wasn’t our intention to work this way, it merely unfolded as so.
Photo by Jeff Ledellaytner
Photo by Jeff Ledellaytner
iEmbody Animal, however, was meticulously choreographed and intensively filmed during a six hour day at a studio in South Boston. This aspect of the iEmbody installation consists of six videos where I portray different animals’ movements from head to tail. PEM provided Jeff and me with reference videos for a tiger, peacock, swan, hummingbird, snake and polar bear and I used my knowledge of movement analysis systems to observe and mimic those bodies, efforts, and use of space for each animal. We collaborated in framing and use of space within the studio to mirror the reference videos displayed in the installation. While humans are bipedal creatures, the intention behind iEmbody Animal was to enhance imagination and incite a feeling of belonging within the natural world.
iEmbody Nature and iEmbody Animal are on display at The Pod. After visiting the 12 Northshore sites, see if you can find our six animal videos hidden among the interactive elements.
Laura Kathrein is an educator and freelance movement artist based in Boston, MA. Through combining her professional experiences of outdoor adventure, environmental education, and dance, Laura utilizes movement to encourage a deeper connection to the natural world.