Just Dance: 7y98D

Ouro, the Vancouver-based dance collective, addresses the climate emergency in its hypnotic dance project with RubberLegz

Global warming on the cusp of becoming irreversible – or perhaps it’s already there. As I’m writing this, I’m gazing out the window at a divided sky; one half is clear blue, the other is expelling snow. Today marks the beginning April, and this icy, interchangeable weather is highly unusual for the dawning days of spring. This is just another noticable effect of climate change.

In response to the impeding doom of the heating planet, many artists and creatives are utilising their practices as a way of steering action. It’s far less about raising awareness, now, for we’ve gone far beyond conversational points or discussion. Now, it’s about actionable response. Ouro Collective is doing just that in its work, a Vancouver-based dance collective merging hiphop, waacking, breaking, popping and contemporary dance in its evocative works. Founded in 2014 by Cristina Bucci, Dean Placzek, Maiko Miyauchi, Mark Siller, and Rina Pellerin, the collective has since evolved from a group of artists “looking to share and learn from each other” into something much bigger, and more impactful. The group have collaborated with artists spanning all mediums over the years and, in its eighth season, this is its most exciting yet with its roster of Ash Cornette, Cristina Bucci, Eric Cheung, Maiko Miyauchi, Rina Pellerin, and Shana Wolfe. All of which hail from diverse cultural and dance backgrounds, wherein they forge a collaboration that demands a need for “dialogue, creative innovation and community building”, the collective explains. 

The result of which has been merged into project named Just Dance: 7y98D, a mesmerising piece composed in collaboration with Rauf “RubberLegz” Yasit. The work is inspired by The Climate Clock, a public installation created by an Golan and Andrew Boyd located that counts down the days until unrepairable climate catastrophe – where no longer can we reverse the burns, scars and wounds of humanity’s impact. Below, I chat to the collective about collaborating with RubberLegz, who’s “well known in the street dance community”, learning the hypnotic choreography over Zoom, and how dance can be a vital tool for addressing the climate emergency. 

It’s interesting to hear that you learnt the choreography through Zoom, how did this pan out?

In 2020, we received the Chrystal Dance Prize, an award from Dance Victoria, which supports projects with international collaborators. We began rehearsals through Zoom, in our own homes, as Vancouver was on lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic and RubberLegz was in Los Angeles. As rehearsals progressed, the ban on international travel was not yet lifted, and we were forced to continue the project virtually. 

Learning movement online is challenging in a number of ways, but learning RubberLegz’s movement online is a game-changer. His movement vocabulary stems from breaking and threading concepts which results in various limbs folding and threading into one another, and with Zoom, everything is backwards. Though challenging, this opportunity created space and trust between the dancers and choreographer.

This trust also extended into the film’s direction as the storyboarding and filming preparations took place online. Co-director David Ehrenreich said: “It’s the first dance film I’ve made, and I enjoyed the unique collaborative process. I imagine it’s similar to adapting a play into a film; this live performance is being created, and we got to go watch it and design the film around what you see at the rehearsals. Rauf approaches movement and the human body in such an idiosyncratic way—we wanted to champion the exploration they were doing.”

The project raises awareness about climate change, a highly pertinent and relevant topic of today. How do you do this in the choreography and wider project?

The title of this project was inspired by The Climate Clock, a public art installation created by artists Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd set on Manhattan’s Union Square. The clock counts down the time left to avoid climate disaster. Ouro became aware of The Climate Clock in 2019 when seven years and 98 days remained. Faced with this stark knowledge, OURO was inspired to bring “the most important number in the world” – as described by the creators of the clock – to dance audiences. 

During the filming of 7y98D, we endured extreme weather conditions. On one of our filming days, Vancouver had the worst air quality in the world, and on another, temperatures reached over 40℃. The air was thick from the smoke of neighbouring forest fires. We had to alter quite a bit of movement to adapt to the environment, so in a way, the choreography underwent its own type of natural selection.

The choreography begins with dancers moving in a harmonious link, mirroring the cyclic nature of the earth. As the piece progresses, the dancers begin disconnecting and linking onto themselves. The tone shifts and movement becomes faster and more urgent as they adapt to new environments. We are currently in rehearsals for our full-length theatre piece and are adapting the choreography seen in the film for a live audience.

What reaction do you hope to receive from your audience?

We hope audiences reconnect as a community during this critical window for action to prevent the effects of global warming from becoming irreversible. Making small personal changes in our lives can pave the way for a better relationship with the earth. 

“It’s a challenge to make a film about how little time we have left to save our planet without it feeling depressing or preachy. Dave and I wanted to present this film in a way that allowed the audience to connect to the movement of the dancers on an emotional level first and wait till the end to provide some context.” Co-director, Jeff Hamada explains. “Hopefully it leaves people feeling just as inspired to go out and do something.”

In what ways can dance and art be an agent for change, especially in relation to the warming climate?

Art can be an agent for change, as it inflicts subconscious responses and emotional connections that impose lasting meaning for the viewer. With a topic like climate change, it is easy to feel disconnected and complacent, as its effects are often regarded as gradual and not fully visible. We wanted to find a way to encourage our audiences to recognise our current situation and empower them to make changes while we still have time. Jeff Hamada said, “The rotations that happen throughout the film are meant to be a reminder that the climate clock is always ticking, but also to convey that there is still time.”

What’s next for you?

We are currently adapting 7y98D into a full-length stage piece, which will premiere in summer of 2022 in Vancouver. Following that, we will be touring the work, and running our summer programming and workshops.

Dates for our community and ocean cleanups will be released in the next few months. They will be open to the public and followed by workshops led by our team and collaborators. We encourage everyone to come, learn and contribute to reversing the Climate Clock. 

The Very Fire They Sit Beside

In a new exhibition at Huxley-Parlour, Dan Wilton in collaboration with ClientEarth addresses the calamitous impact of the coal industry

Towerfest Country Music Festival, Drax power station, North Yorkshire, 2019 © Dan Wilton The owners of North Yorkshire’s Drax power plant, formerly a coal-only plant, have pivoted towards a variety of future options – including heavily contested biomass (the burning of wood pellets). For this, they have received millions in subsidies from the UK Government.

It’s no secret that the coal industry is impacting the planet in calamitous ways. Mining, burning and usage all have their profound and consequential disadvantages; it’s the most polluting way of producing energy. From toxic chemicals and soot released into the atmosphere, to broken environments, abolished habitats and relocated homes; coal is a cheap and dirty alternative to renewable sources. The human reliance on coal comes at a large cost.

A third of the globe’s population currently uses energy fuelled by coal, despite worldwide access to renewable energy. It’s the largest contributor to the increase in carbon dioxide, so action needs to happen promptly and cautiously to curb the affects of climate change. This is a topic that’s currently being addressed by photographer Dan Wilton in a new exhibition at Huxley-Parlour Gallery, launching this weekend and made in collaboration with ClientEarth. Titled The Very Fire They Sit Beside, the works involved depict Dan’s journey across Europe to document the impact of the coal industry on both the landscape and the communities who live amongst its open wounds and scars. The project started in 2019 and Dan ventured across Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Spain and the UK. “Coal is still the number one contributor to climate change,” says Dan, “so it’s incredibly important that we move away from it as soon as possible.”

Povrchový lom ČSA Lignite Mine, Czechia, 2019 © Dan Wilton A long tussle over the end of coal in Czechia has resulted in a recent announcement that the country will go beyond coal in 2033. This is later than climate science allows – but better than the original 2038 proposal.

Before now, the Croydon-born and Walthamstow-based photographer had originally trained as an environmental biologist before experiencing his first black and white darkroom at university. Self-taught – he describes this as both a “blessing and a curse” – Dan’s craft has allowed him to tie both worlds as he strives to raise awareness of climate change. As such, he’d met environmental law charity ClientEarth in 2018 during a shoot for Monocle. “I’d been looking for the right charity to work with for a while and they basically just fell into my lap,” he explains. After which they discussed various environmental issues and a few simple facts were laid on the table, enlightening Dan about Germany’s coal usage, for one, which inadvertently caught his attention. “I’ve always thought of Germany as a green leader in Europe. I’ve visited Cologne many times to visit friends and had absolutely no idea that just a half hour drive away are some of the biggest lignite mines in the world, encircled by a ring of power plans that combine to be one of the biggest carbon emitters in Europe.” In fact, still to this day, Germany relies on coal for a third of its energy requirements.

Triggered to do something, Dan set out on his quest to capture the crumbling landscapes. He’d visit villages on the brink of collapse, observing buildings and homes as they gradually fall in on themselves as a result of over mining. “They’ve had their natural water supply cut off because of heavy metals leaching into the supply from nearby coal ash deposits,” he explains. In Germany, for example, the large lignite mines – harbouring brown coal which produces a low heat content – stretch for miles in a sea of mines, “as far as the eye can see”. They’re forcing people from their homes. “I was there to witness demonstrations against the demolition of the village in Manheim, which included the deconsecration of its church.”

‘Yiorgos’, Coal Miner, Akrini, Northern Greece, 2019 © Dan Wilton Yiorgos works in the lignite mine that encircles Akrini. The village’s natural water supply previously had to be cut off after the cancer-causing hexavalent chromium leached from coal ash deposits from nearby coal plants. Those responsible were later imprisoned – but the site is still not managed properly. Yiorgos wants to move on but, like many villagers, he is caught in an impossible position, with the coal industry being a key employer in the region, and the mine affecting house prices.

In the city of Katowice, Poland, the smell of burning coal lingers in the air – “it hits you as soon as you get off the plane,” explains Dan. Awash in high levels of pollution, the children living near the coal plant were exposed to four times the amount of cancer-causing black carbon in relation to France. “But at the same time, the coal companies are often the key employer in the region – so people are reliant on them for their income, and have been for decades. So it’s quite complicated to transition from coal in a fair way that doesn’t simply punish people who have made sacrifices to power our homes and countries for decades – to guarantee them a stable future.”

Throughout Dan’s imagery, the more visible repercussions are paired with the subtle; decaying landscapes are sat next to pleasing yet emotive portraits of the people he’d met along his journey. Some of which were those who worked with ClientEarth to fight their cases, including Marina and her son Zhelyazko in Bulgaria who were being evicted from their home due to building plans for a local mine. “Marina, who’s in her 90s, had already been evicted once in her lifetime because of the coal mine, whilst Zhelyazko is reliant on the mine for his employment.” Meanwhile, other meetings were more impromptu, like the children in Bobov Dol, or Yiorgos, who Dan met while waking through Akrini village in Greece. “Photographing the Ende Gelände protests around the Garzweiler mine was one of the most emotional moments of the whole process for me. To witness thousands of young people protesting breaking through police lines, storming the fine, blocking train lines to shut the plants and force mining to stop, all in the face of a very heavy handed police response was very moving.”

‘Zhelyazko’, Beli Bryag, Bulgaria, 2019 © Dan Wilton. Zhelyazko and his mother Marina are battling to keep their rural home in Beli Bryag, where they have a smallholding, growing vegetables and fruit, including plums for traditional liqueur. Marina has already been evicted for coal once in her life – but with Zhelyazko at the mercy of the mining company, the villagers are in an untenable position and planning legal recourse.

Art has the magnitude to educate and inform – proving a powerful device in relation to the climate. Through this body of work, Dan invites his viewers to learn the impact of the coal industry and, ultimately, to steer action – even if we might have a rocky road ahead of us. “I hope this project helps highlight the work that still needs to be done in Europe to move beyond coal and also to highlight that it’s not just a simple black and white issue. We can’t just close all the coal infrastructure and replace it with renewables in the same area to replace the jobs that will be lost in one fell swoop. It’s not that simple.”

The Very Fire They Sit Beside by Dan Wilton in collaboration with ClientEarth is on view at Huxley-Parlour Gallery from 10 – 12 March 2022

Tourists, RWE’s Hambach Mine, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, 2019 © Dan Wilton The Hambach and Garzweiler mines are truly colossal, stretching further than the eye can see. Bulldozers the length of rows of terraced houses seem like specks on the horizon.

Sines Power plant, Portugal, 2019 © Dan Wilton At the time this picture of Sines was taken, the power plant was active and one of the most polluting plants in Europe. But 2021 marked the closure of Sines, nearly 10 years ahead of schedule, followed by the country’s last coal power plant, Pego, in November. Portugal is now coal-free.

The Residents of Anargyroi, Anargyroi, Northern Greece, 2019 © Dan Wilton Anargyroi was half destroyed when the 5km-long Amyntaio mine on the doorstep of the village caused a catastrophic landslide in 2017. Most lost their homes and were unable to return. Remaining houses still contain fragments from the day of the collapse – cracked walls, open cabinets and unused vinyls. Residents have long been campaigning for compensation for what they lost.

Aboño Power Plant, Gijón, Spain, 2019 © Dan Wilton The soil of the land around the Aboño power plant contains levels of mercury 7 to 10 times over the WHO legal limit. Water from the natural springs in the area is undrinkable due to contamination with mercury and other heavy metals. However, people still grow vegetables and crops.

Ende Gelände, Protesters Storm RWE’s Garzweiler Mine, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, 2019 © Dan Wilton Each year huge groups of activists periodically invade RWE’s massive mines in North Rhine- Westphalia in an effort to halt coal production and bring pressure to end Germany’s continued reliance on coal energy. Germany touts its green reputation with gusto, but nearly a third of its power still comes from climate-killing coal. While climate science says EU countries must phase out coal by 2030, the date stated in Germany’s coal exit law is 2038.



Founded by Sarah Krause and Sarah Seb, the sustainable fashion brand uses soil regeneration to combat climate change 

Photography by The Earth Issue

The thoughts of fashion becoming fully sustainable has left many feeling hopeless, uninspired or drained by the constant disappointment of the industry. Not only are brands not doing enough in terms of curbing the warming climate, but consumers are left slightly bemused as to the active steps they should be taking – thrifting, buying less, choosing consciously and buying from conscious brands all seem like reasonable guidelines. But what does it really mean for a brand to be sustainable? And is our trust dwindling?

Helping to rebuild confidence is Sarah Krause, a Londoner with an Austrian and Mexican heritage. She set up Solai alongside Sarah Seb, fashion designer and creative director, as a response to the increasing pressures on the planet. Left feeling “disheartened” by the fashion industry, there remained a glimmer of excitement as she noticed the influx of sustainable practices coming into the fore. “I wanted to see clothing on the market that was creative and modern whilst also being ethnically made and genuinely good for the planet,” she shares. “Ultimately though, I wanted to go a step beyond and create clothing that was not just sustainable, but actively climate-beneficial.” 

Photography by The Earth Issue

To address this, Sarah turned her focus towards soil regeneration. Perhaps a term that some may not be familiar with, regenerative farming looks at exhausted soil, and is the solution for creating healthy ecology and, among other things, helps to reverse the effects of climate change. By definition, to regenerate means to regrow or be renewed; so think of the clothing lifecycle in this sense as being continuous and mindful of damage and restoration. “If we could work with regenerative farmers to grow our clothing fibres, we would play a role in reviving degraded lands and creating a carbon sink in the soil,” she says. “This approach to land management has proven to be one of the most effective ways of combating climate change and, to me, there was a clear interesting with the fashion industry. The idea was simple, but incredibly powerful.”

Solai therefore partners with a collective of farmers and artisans in Erode, Tamil Nadu, that of which had “successfully revitalised” acres of once degraded lands through regenerative agriculture and “indigenous wisdom”. The proof is in the output, and Solai’s collections since birth have shown the benefits of tech and conscious sourcing. By 2022, for instance, the brand will make the majority of its clothing carbon negative, derived from regeneratively grown cotton. “The remainder will be made from pre and post-consumer recycled materials, including cotton and wool, so that we can keep existing fabrics out of the waste stream and save ample natural resources in the process,” says Sarah. A recent product in the works, for example, is the “very first photosynthetic top”, which translates to a coating which “captures carbon” and “releases oxygen” while being used. Like something from a dystopian future, perhaps a photosynthetic garment is hard to comprehend, yet Solai are making it a reality.

Photography by The Earth Issue

Besides the somewhat biophillic sounding clothing design, Solai has also recently launched its Revival and Eco Collection, shot and produced by the environmentally conscious agency The Earth Issue, headed up by Elena Cremona and Isabelle Landicho. Captured amongst the Italiante Glasshouse and Tea Garden in the Ramsgate area, the collection presents soft silhouettes, intricate embroidery and mossy undertones – crafted from tencel, linen and sustainably farmed organic cotton, plus naturally dyed colour palettes drawn from annatto seeds. It’s type of clothing that doesn’t adhere to any outdated stereotypes of what sustainable clothing may look like. 

“Although seeing a constant barrage of greenwashing can be demoralising at times, overall I’m hopeful for the future of the fashion industry,” says Sarah of her hopes for the future. “I remember even a few short years ago, so few people were talking about sustainability in fashion and I’d have a hard time trying to get people interested in the topic. But now, I think it’s increasingly on people’s radar and I’ve seen a genuine shift in attitude, with greater commitments to make better, more conscious choices. Crucially, I think fast fashion brands have to majorly scale down their production and put some of their vast marketing budgets into the hands of their labourers. It’ll be interesting to see if people and planet prevail over hefty profit margins!”

Photography by The Earth Issue
Photography by The Earth Issue

Music for climate change

100 cities threatened by rising seas can listen to a piece composed by Cecilia Damström, played by the Lahti symphony orchestra and conducted by Dalia Stasevksa

The Finnish tabloid Helsingin Sanomat once referred to Cecilia Damström as the Greta Thunberg of music, and quite frankly, there is no better description. The Helsinki-born composer, who grew up in a German-Scottish-Finnish family, has so far written four chamber operas, music for orchestra, choir and chamber music plus a host of other solo works. Her most recent piece, however, confirms her essence – the drive, spirit and temper – of her career entirely. In collaboration with the carbon-neutral symphony orchestra of Finnish city Lahti, Cecilia has crafted a 10-minute piece entitled ICE. 

Conducted by Dalia Stasevksa, the music is available only to 100 cities worldwide that are endangered by climate change and its consequent rising sea levels. Artistically strict, upon landing on ICE’s very own homepage, users are given the option to input their city to test out whether or not their lands are threatened. Myself in London, I popped the data in and therein flashed a harsh yet necessary statement: that the city is under threat from rising sea levels. The only positive of this message, though, is that I’m now able to listen to Cecilia’s composition of playful and peaceful melodies that rashly intensify as it strives to replicate the impending danger of our world. “The piece begins with depicting beautiful ice scenes,” says Cecilia. “Every chord is a symmetrical chord consisting of six notes, because when water freezes it always becomes a symmetrical hexagon.” The first three or so minutes, in this sense, depicts a “normal” winter period before “alarm signals” begin to change the pace, “and the winds that grow ever louder every time the winter shortens.” 

“At around five minutes,” she continues, “you can hear ecosystems starting to collapse and the strings playing frantic rhythmic repetition, how time is ticking away. While at six and a half minutes, we will again hear alarm signals, like when a big vehicle is trying to reverse. The alarms begin to ring out clearly SOS (three short, three long and three short signals). Soon after we can hear ‘total’ collapse, the heart’s irregular beat in a duet with a bicycle bell, also signalling SOS. The bicycle bell is a symbol for how human (personal) action can impact and make a change, and make things turn around. We hear a fast speed rewind of the collapse from about eight minutes until we are finally back at the beginning, back to normal winters at around nine minutes. The bicycle bell is also the last thing we hear, human action is the note of hope for the future.”

Lahti Symphony, Sibelius Festival 2019. Photo by Maarit Kytöharju

ICE is an apt example of how music can be employed as a tool for steering change, particularly when it comes to addressing the impact of our warming world. And cities, like Lahti, are at the forefront of this: consuming less resources; making urban areas more sustainable; consciously encouraging sustainable urban planning like transportation; and actively sourcing renewable energy are a few instances. Leading the way and setting an example for all, Lathi has been coal-free since 2016 and will be a zero-waste, carbon-neutral city by 2025. It’s also proud to state that 99% of its household waste is received and recycled, and has plans to protect 8% of its nature and resources by 2030.

If urgent action isn’t taken now, then disastrous effects will be brought to the surface, quite literally, by the end of the century. No city will be unaffected by the climate crisis. “Together with Lathi,” says Cecilia, “I wanted to draw attention to the alarming state of these coastal cities by highlighting them and bringing together the people who live in these areas, and share the concern about the future. On the one hand, we are asking the questions about what unique things will be lost if we lose these areas, and on the other hand, we wanted to focus the piece’s message of hope and prompt action on the endangered areas.”

Photo by Marthe Veian

The cities declared under this powerful merging of music and activism have been chosen based on reports and findings by the Urban Climate Change Research Network, The World Economic Forum, OECD and Climate Central. Along with London, these other locations include Copenhagen, Dakar, Istanbul, New York, Buenos Aires, Shenzhen, Venice, Melbourne, Tokyo, Faro, Liverpool, Amsterdam and many more. According the project’s research, rising sea levels are set to threaten several coastal cities by 2050 and 2100. “I hope we can raise awareness of the acute situation of the glaciers and get people to act on the behalf of nature,” she says of her impactful messaging. So what does Cecilia hope for the future? “Nonviolent protests are twice as likely to succeed as armed conflicts – and from those engaging, at least 3.5% of the population have never failed to bring about change. My hope is that we can be part of those who bring about the changes needed for stopping climate change.”