See Also: Marylee Hardenbergh Choreographer site-specific performances
Huge picture from Minneapolis Tribune

From the web pages of Hamline University Graduate School of Education, St. Paul, Minnesota,
used by permission, see copyright below.
my sister...
Mary Lee Hardenbergh
CLICK HERE to join Mary Lee in the
Online with Rivers Conference, April 27-May 1 (1998)

Dancers on mooring cells at a lock and dam.
For over 13 years, Mary Lee Hardenbergh has been creating large outdoor site-specific dance performances. Her goal is to transform the environment so that people experience it with renewed eyes and heart. She believes that the power of dance -- with its moving colors and harmonious rhythms -- deepens the audience's sense of place and how we humans fit into the landscape. Those who attend her performances say they never see the place where the dance was in the same way. Dance Magazine said, "Hardenbergh, in her site work, offers audiences a therapeutic sense of shared wonder and community solidarity." 

Hardenbergh feels it is important that the performances be free and open to the public, whenever possible. A wonderful aspect of her work is that it occurs in natural light on the solstice or equinox or full moons to help us realize that there are steady cyclical rhythms in our skies and we can acknowledge and harmonize with the universe in this way. 

The music, written especially for the site dance, is simulcast over a local radio station so that all dancers and viewers, no matter how far apart, can hear the same beat at the same moment. The audience bring their portable radios. 

She has made many dances on rivers and waterways. She put dancers on mooring cells at a lock and dam, on barges in the Mississippi River, on roofs and balconies of skyscrapers, on a huge lift bridge in Duluth, Minnesota, and on a sewage treatment plant. She went to Bosnia two summers ago to create a dance with Serb, Muslim and Croat dancers all performing together on the bombed-out parliament building. Her latest performance about the molecular structure of water featured the 104.5 degree angle which the two hydrogen atoms make every time they bond with their oxygen atom!!

Hardenbergh just returned from a journey along the Minnesota River where she working on her upcoming dance in August. She is orchestrating 14 dancers at 14 separate places all along the length of the 323 mile river. From source to mouth, the dancers will perform at the same time to the same music as the sun is going down and the full moon is coming up. She jokingly calls it her "Invisible Dance" because you will be able to see only one of the 14 dancers at the site you choose to go to. However, you will know, as you watch the dancer at your chosen site, that all along the river there are 13 other dancers moving in unison. The dance will bring a celebration, an awareness of the beauty of the entire length of the river, which is one of the most polluted in the country. 

Sometimes the way to shape people's behavior and to heal pollution problems is to show that the environment is worth our loving care, as opposed to criticizing .

Dancer on the roof of a sewage treatment plant. 
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There are many stages in the process of creating site-specific artistic performances. Hardenbergh is currently in the Research and Development stage, and she is spending hours and hours looking at possible sites and studying the look of the river. She thinks that she'll place some dancers close by the water, while others will be higher up, overlooking the river. She noticed the following types of places along the river: houses, power plants, plowed fields, farm houses, bridges for roads, bridges for railroads, picnic sites, camping, nature reserves, spillways, boat ramps, quarries, dams, and dikes. Can you think of others?? She wants to make sure that at each site you can see the moon rising in the east. Do you have some ideas of your own on how you would create this dance? 

Aerial lift bridge, Duluth, Minnesota. Can you spot 11 dancers?

Center for Global Environmental Education
Hamline University Graduate School of Education
1536 Hewitt Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104-1284
Phone: 612-523-2480 Fax: 612-523-2987
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