Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
April 3, 2012
How often do kids get to dive into kelp forests and watch the graceful movement of sea creatures tossed by currents and tides like in The Little Mermaid? My guess is, never unless they really are children of the sea. However circus, dance and ocean lovers can experience something pretty close next week in San Francisco, minus the getting wet part. Premiering at Fort Mason’s Herbst Teatre on April 12, 2012 for four days only (April 12 through 15), Okeanos is part-ballet, part-circus act, all-ocean conservation performance. Self-described as “a multidisciplinary portrait of the ocean as body, resource, metaphor, and force”, its goal is to inspire and educate audiences about the ocean and connect them directly to ocean conservation. I wanted to learn more and asked Jodi Lomask, the brain and choreographer behind the project, if I could attend a rehearsal with my kids. Fortunately a friend connected us and she said yes.
Getting To Know Okeanos
Okeanos is a Greek word for ocean, the sister of Tethis and mother to the ocean nymphs. Last year I was part of the invited media at the Bluemind Summit, a symposium on your brain and the ocean at the California Academy of Sciences. Orchestrated by sea turtle biologist Dr Wallace J Nichols and my friends Sarah Kornfeld and Rio Dluzak, it was an eclectic line-up of scientists, artists, big wave surfers, realtors, ocean nerds, futurists and neuro-scientists who talked about how the ocean affects them, how it affects our brain.
Jodi’s performance with her science-dance project Capacitor was the first time I saw any ocean experience translated into dance moves. It was both fascinating, soothing and on the verge of new agey. Would we have to dance to the ocean waves and chant hymns under the blue moon next? Fortunately not. Jodi was not trying to get the audience to wave their hands in the air, however oceanic that may be. She did, however, want us to care about the ocean and it struck a chord with me.
Last month with my kids and husband, I crashed a Capacitor rehearsal at a dance studio in SOMA after school. Jodi and her team were in the middle of preparing their next group number. Gym mats stacked against the wall, a fiberglass “oceanic shell” hanging from metal beams in the center, dancers stretching, doing hand stands and pretzel noodle positions to relax – clearly this was not your mom’s ballet, which my girls remarked right away. “Mom, you got the wrong address. This is not ballet!” they exclaimed. Ha girls, wait and watch I thought.
Over the next hour and a half, dancers curled up inside the ball to stretch out with arms and legs poking through openings, athletic guys bust into acrobatic flips and a dancer climbed up an aerial rope to twist it around her body. This was definitely closer to Cirque du Soleil than the San Francisco Ballet, but this being a technical rehearsal, the session ended up being too bare bones for my girls. Well, not quite but it led them to lie down on the gym mats to stretch and giggle while I kept scribbling notes.
I wish they could have seen the live performance but that’s next week. In the live performance, the dance numbers are choreographed against filmed underwater scenes, you hear a scientific commentary on the ocean, you get LED lights glowing inside the shell. It’s a cool experience in the dark. Yet despite the broad daylight, one particular number stopped my 6-year old in her gym antics. She came to me and said “I think that’s a seaweed,” pointing at a dancer wavering, “do you think they dress as seaweeds during the show?”
To learn more about the project, I watched Jodi’s TedX Berkeley talk on Okeanos that included an excerpt of Okeanos on coral reefs and more. On stage, Jodi described how to research Okeanos, she spent 2 years connecting with the ocean in many ways. She went surfing in cold waters, diving in tropical coral reefs and Monterey’s kelp forest, and with her team spent 6 months meeting with the oceanographers at the California Academy of Sciences. That’s in addition to the costumes, underwater film clips, scientific expertise, music and the venue.
Caring About the Ocean
When I take my girls to the ocean, we pick up plastic trash so it doesn’t end up clogging digestive tracts of seals and killing them slowly and painfully. They’ve seen the seals treated at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, they know. We also stopped buying plastic bottles 5 years ago. That much less floating ocean trash, a topic that deeply troubles my 8-year old. When I swim in the San Francisco Bay, I feel connected to the ocean only a bridge away.
Take your kids to see Okeanos next week. They might get inspired, just in time for Earth Day in April and National Ocean Month in June, to take care of the ocean in their own way. Kudos to Okeanos for raising ocean awareness in fluid moves and out-of-space jump and slide drills,