Culture & Conversation

Burning dance


Geneviève Metson plays with phosphorus in the lab and has learnt its story. She will tell it at Place Bonaventure on Saturday with an interactive dance performance. Its movement—from soil to water, from food to compost, from not enough to too much—is complex and controversial. With her research, this McGill PhD candidate hopes to develop and encourage better management of phosphorus. And with the dance she has co-choreographed, she also hopes to encourage better understanding of it.

The audience will explore phosphorus cycling with six dancers, a narrator, and a scientist with the help of narration, infographics, tasking and active discussion. I spoke with her about her research and how her academic pursuits ended up to be considered for inclusion in Art Souterrain at the Nuit Blanche 2014. Here is what she had to say:

On Phosphorus: It moves through the environment and through our global food system. It’s essential to grow food, but, in excess, pollutes water.

On Movement: I think that showing this movement [of phosphorus] through dance is quite interesting. I think movement is present in many of the challenges we face about human effects on the environment and use of natural resources and dance can be one of many ways of trying to better understand and explain what is going on.

On Measurements: This is absolutely key in science and I think measurement and recording can be both qualitative and quantitative. When it comes to dance, measurement is different. I think rhythm and timing are important, and spacing of course, but I don’t bring a tape measure to rehearsals. The beauty of using dance as a communication medium for my research is to get out of my graphs and excel spreadsheets. I want to tell a story, but the specific numbers are not as important.

On Storytelling: Art and science both require creativity. When you create art or you do research you use what you have learnt (knowledge and vocabulary built through time) and you push boundaries to further the field and in many ways our understanding of the world. My scientific work ensures that the story is accurate, and the dance allows it to be told in a non-linear way, using three dimensional movement that explore how the facts are related to one another.

On Managing Phosphorus in Your Daily Life: A vegan meal is going to be a more phosphorus friendly one with our current food production system, but it is also about how the particular crops are grown. I favour meals where I know where the ingredients come from so that I know the producer has good nutrient management practices and recycles phosphorus. If you grow some of your own food or have a CSA that becomes easier to do. I love having a great salad with kale and tomatoes from my own garden (where I compost, thus recycling phosphorus), and then I will add some lentils for protein (but I can’t grow those myself).

This performance is presented by the SensoriuM, which you can read more about here.

More about the performance here and here.

Place Bonaventure, Zone 6, 800 rue de la Gauchetière Ouest, 8:30 pm, 9:30 pm, 10:30 pm, 11:30 pm on March 1.


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