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Science and Innovations

Eats and Beats: A Marvelous Night for a Moon Dance

Canyon Movement Company

It was a marvelous night for a moon dance at the annual Spring Dance Festival in Flagstaff presented by Canyon Movement Company. This year’s theme was the Apollo missions. How do dancers translate science onto the stage? In this installment of Eats and Beats: Stories about Food and Music, we hear three choreographers explain how they used music and movement to cast a different light on the moon.

The dancers on stage for a performance called “Remembering” weren’t born yet when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Neither was Cori Wall, the choreographer. "It took me a while to come up with ideas for this one, particularly because I can’t relate to it," she says. 

Credit Scott Sawyer
Dancers with Velocity Dance Company perform "Remembering."

Wall and her dancers turned to interviews and archival tape to learn about the emotional weight of that moment. "So we had some films we watched of the launch happening and moon landing happening, and some voice recordings of now adults who were children at that time of the moon landing, and we recorded their memories to build the piece."

Credit Scott Sawyer
Zane Walden performs in "The Only Man," a piece to honor astronaut Michael Collins

The dancers pantomime the memories, leaping from boredom to surprise to amazement. Wall says creating this performance changed the way she thought about Apollo. "I think what I realized was that in my lifetime our country hasn’t done anything super positive and patriotic and amazing like that… Everybody, wherever they were, watched it, and it was a really cool coming together of the country that I have never had the chance to witness."

“Remembering” is one of fifteen performances brought to the show. Gina Darlington of Canyon Movement Company says she wanted people to connect to the moon in a new way. "Dancers, we feel a passion to tell our story through movement, and we have the benefit of using music to help tell that story," she says.

Darlington choreographed a dance to honor Michael Collins, the Apollo 11 astronaut who stayed in orbit and did not walk on the moon. On the stage, a lone dancer leaps and plays with a white yoga ball. A photograph of the Earth taken by Collins shines on the screen behind him.

"For me it felt like there’s this awestruck feeling of seeing all of humanity in front of him…and how alone he must have felt, and yet all powerful in a way," Darlington says.

Some performances tell a literal story about the moon landings; others have a poetic slant. But Bridgette Borzillo of CaZo Dance Company decided on a different approach entirely. "I was like, I haven’t brought a humorous piece to Flagstaff yet. I decided to create a parody on the moon landing," she says.

It’s called “Gravity!” and it plays on the conspiracy theory that the moon landing was faked. Two dancers glow under a blacklight in white, puffy costumes. They float in space, lifted up by other dancers dressed in almost-invisible black clothing. Then—one of the dancers sneezes. Borzillo leaps up from the audience and shouts at the performers: "Cut, cut, cut! Come on guys!" People start to laugh as they figure it out. Borzillo yells, "Lights, camera, action!" and the music and dancing starts over again, to the audience's giggles. 

Borzillo explains, "When I told this concept to Ben, who is the tech director, he was like, oh—you don’t think the moon landing really happened? No, I do, I do! I do! But a lot of people don’t. I want to play into that. I feel like it was a completely different perspective than what a lot of people went with."

Borzillo says why not? It’s art… it’s meant to explore an idea from every angle. For this show, at least, even the moon is in reach.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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