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[ENG][中]Global Water Dances: Building Communities Around the World to Raise Environmental Awareness

Text: Vannia Ibarguen

The pressure of water concerns is rising, and action is urgent. Growing populations, more water-intensive patterns of growth, increasing rainfall variability, and pollution are combining in many places to make water one of the greatest risks to poverty eradication and sustainable development. Floods and droughts already impose huge social and economic costs around the world, and climate variability will make water extremes worse. If the world continues on its current path, projections suggest that the world may face a 40% shortfall in usable water availability by 2030. The consequences of such stress are local, transboundary and global in today’s interconnected world. The United Nations held a Water Conference in March 2023 and agreed that transformational change is needed, and water must become a catalyst for health, wellbeing, securing nutrition and energy for all, setting international goals for 2030.

國際水舞蹈節2019 愛爾蘭科克 GWD2019 Cork, Ireland/攝 Photo: Kara Sweeney - Twenty4Flims(照片由Vannia Ibarguen提供 Photo provided by Vannia Ibarguen)

Many years before this conference, a group of movement experts gathered in 2008 and developed a project to create awareness about water using a more effective medium of communication than the verbal one: the language of the body. The project took the name Global Water Dances. The template was based on Marylee Hardenbergh’s project, One River Mississippi, which connected seven sites along the Mississippi River in the United States through movement, performing altogether at the same time. Each location had a leader and a group of dancers performing the same dance structure: an opening sequence honouring the water, a locally choreographed work about a local water issue, a shared dance that every participating community would do, and an inclusive and empowering section in which the audience could join. The challenge now was to implement this project around the world, in every continent.

Global Water Dances (GWD) was first launched in June 2011 and has been organised every other year since then. The Steering Committee, made up of Marylee Hardenbergh, Karen Bradley, Martha Eddy, Antja Kennedy, Gretchen Dunn, and Vannia Ibarguen, used their professional networks and were able to recruit choreographers who shared their vision from more than 60 cities from six continents. Dancing for safe water for everyone, everywhere. Dancers perform at rivers, lakes, beaches, parks, pools and other places related to water, bringing audiences and performers together in a single universal dance. Choreographers are encouraged to combine the events with traditional environmental education practices: they organise panel discussions, invite environmental organisations to speak, or make calls to action in the form of petitions, cleaning rivers or beaches, marches, and other forms of environmental activism. The performances are free of charge, so everybody has the opportunity to enjoy them at no cost. By 2021, our number of locations grew to 180 cities and towns.

In working with choreographers around the world, GWD draws on Rudolf Laban and Irmgard Bartenieff’s practices with human movement to mirror the universe’s dynamic patterns, in a dance called the Global Dance, performing similar movements in all locations. The choreographers are empowered to also create their own dance called the Local Dance, to communicate about their local water crises, and inspire action. The choreographers create dances that will not only move the participants, but also the observers: at the end of each performance, dancers and audience members are intermingled in a Participatory Dance, by teaching/learning a very simple sequence of movements, engaging audiences of all ages and abilities. In this way, local communities are encouraged not only to dance, but also to find ways to take action to solve their immediate water problems. Each event will reflect the importance of water as seen by that local community and in the eco-systems they share.

GWD is also a model for how to use current technology to create, perform, respond and connect people from different parts of the world: choreographers are contacted through our website, they can also learn the Global Dance over the internet, with music, video, and written scores all available online. They perform for a local community but also for the world through online broadcasting, and, further, the videos are stored in our video repository for collaboration, peer review and response. Site leaders and choreographers meet through video-conferencing to maintain contact with each other. One problem was to find the right time to meet between the different time zones! In our 2021 event, with the difficulties of the pandemic and COVID-19 continuing, site leaders were able to meet at several webinars and dance together in real time, despite the distance.

國際水舞蹈節美國加利福尼亞洲莫拉加GWD Moraga, CA, USA/攝Photo: Manny Crisotomo (照片由Vannia Ibarguen提供 Photo provided by Vannia Ibarguen)

In 2022, GWD launched its Education Program, led by Natasha Alhadeff-Jones. The GWD Education Program supports dance and movement educators by facilitating educational experiences inspired by the mission and values of GWD for early childhood, K-12, university, and community-based educational settings. To that end, the GWD Education Program provides online resources that include suggested curricular activities and professional development opportunities, as well as access to a global network of GWD Educational Leaders, who are committed to participatory arts and environmental activism.

How can we claim what effects this project has had? Surveys were made in four continents, and these are some of the results: 78% said the performance increased their interest in water issues and were inspired to take action; 68% were likely to make more effort to conserve water in their personal use; and 75% felt it brought a sense of community and helped them to see their location in a new way.

Also, the project has generated a ripple effect: many brainchildren and sister organisations are using the GWD model, and continuing to work on water activism through the arts: Caudal (Mexico), Festiagua (Peru), TREE (Bangladesh), Dance Ecology (Taiwan), National Water Dance (Miami, USA), Dance Alchemy (Baltimore, USA), Dancing Earth (USA/Canada), Teatro Marikeño (Philippines), AgapeBelgium (Belgium), Dancers Without Borders (Europe), Moving on Center (New York, USA), Global Site Performance (Minneapolis, USA), among others.

Our next event is on June 10 2023. More than 140 cities will dance on that day, including Paris (France), Lima (Peru), Washington DC (USA), Seoul (Korea), Mexico DF (Mexico), Johannesburg (South Africa) to name a few. Please visit our website for more information.

Global Water Dances


Vannia Ibarguen, MFA

Graduate with a Master in Dance and Choreography from the University of Maryland in USA. She is a performer, choreographer, and dance educator. She is the Artistic Director of Global Water Dances, an international initiative that raises consciousness on the critical need for safe drinking water around the world through dance and film.

[中] 國際水舞蹈節:在世界各地建設社區以提高環保意識

文: Vannia Ibarguen

翻譯:Pomny Au


國際水舞蹈節2019菲律賓馬利金納市 GWD2019 Marikina City, Philippines (照片由Vannia Ibarguen 提供 Photo provided by Vannia Ibarguen)

在這場會議的多年前,一群形體專家在2008年聚集一起,以提高用水的意識為目標,發展出一個以身體語言——比說話更有效地溝通的方法——為主的項目,名為「國際水舞蹈節」。項目的模式是基於Marylee Hardenbergh的項目「一條密西西比河」,透過動作連結美國密西西比河的七個地點,同步進行表演。每個地點都有一個隊長及一群舞蹈員表演相同的舞蹈結構:一場致敬水的開幕,一段關於當地水議題、由當地編舞的舞蹈,一場每個參與社區都會跳的舞蹈,最後是一個觀眾可以參與其中、共融及令人鼓舞的環節。現在的挑戰是在全球每個洲都舉行這個項目。


Marylee Hardenbergh、Karen Bradley、Martha Eddy、Antja Kennedy、Gretchen Dunn 以及Vannia Ibarguen組成。他們運用自身的專業人脈,徵聘來自六大洲、超過60個城市、有著共同遠見的編舞,一起為每個人、每個地方的水資源安全而起舞。舞者在河流、湖畔、沙灘、園、水池及其他與水有關的地方表演,以一支全球性的舞蹈帶動觀眾與舞者共舞。項目鼓勵編舞結合活動及傳統環保教育實踐:舉辦小組討論、邀請環保機構發言、號召各方面的行動如聯名簽署、理河流或海灘、遊行,以及其他環保提倡運動。表演是免費,所以每個人都能參與。截至2021年,我們的活動地點已增加至180個城市及市鎮。

GWD與世界各地的編舞合作,參照Rudolf Laban及Irmgard Bartenieff的人體動作實踐,編出一支「全球之舞」,模仿宇宙律動的模式,並於所有地區表演相似的動作。編舞亦受推動創作自己的作品,名為「本土之舞」,以傳遞有關他們當地用水危機的訊息並帶起行動。編舞的舞蹈帶動的不只是參與者,亦包括觀察者。每次表演後,舞者與觀眾在一支「參與舞蹈」中互動。透過教導或學習一些簡單的動作,各年齡層的觀眾、能力各異的人士均可以投入其中。這種方法不單鼓勵本地社區跳舞,亦可尋找解決即時用水問題的方法。每個活動都反映著水在當地及整個共享的生態系統的重要性。


2022年,GWD推出教育計劃,由Natasha Alhadeff-Jones領導。GWD教育計劃支持舞蹈及形體動作的教育學者,為幼童、青少年、大學及社區主導的教學環境,帶動由GWD的使命及價值衍生的教學體驗。為此,計劃提供網上資源,包括課程活動建議及專業發展機會,以及加入致力於參與式藝術和環保活動的GWD教育領袖的全球網絡。


項目亦產生漣漪效應,很多智庫及相關團體開始運用GWD的形式,以藝術為水資源作出努力,包括 Caudal(墨西哥)、Festiagua(秘魯)、 TREE(孟加拉)、Dance Ecology(台灣)、National Water Dance(美國邁亞密)、Dance Alchemy(美國巴爾的摩)、Dancing Earth(美國/加拿大)、Teatro Marikeño(菲律賓)、AgapeBelgium(比利時)、Dancers Without Borders(歐洲)、Moving on Center(美國紐約)、Global Site Performance(美國明尼阿波利斯)等等。




Vannia Ibarguen,藝術碩士



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