Australian Dancers Perform On An Ice Block In The Sky: Coming To Terms With The Black Summer

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It was a surreal sight above Sydney Harbor as a 6,000 pound gradually melted 20 meters above on Saturday with performers reiterating that there was no time to lose when it is about the unending climate crisis.

A creation of Legs On The Wall,  an Australian physical theater company. Artistic director Joshua Thomson says that they hope to engage the audience through art and help them engage with real issues.

The art installation was entitled THAW with Australian dancers Jenni Large, Isabel Estrella, and Vicki Van Hout performing over it through 8 hours even as the iceberg slowly melted under their feet.

The performance comes even as Australia reeled under record heat that matched the hottest day ever. Temperatures soared to above 50C (122F).

Australian Dancers

Image Credits: Don Arnold/WireImage

This performance by the Australian dancers comes after Man With The Iron Neck, their critically acclaimed production delving into the painful theme of suicide prevalent among people of First Nation. This performance covered 4 major festivals in Australia in 2018-2019. The pandemic brought to a sudden halt a couple of national tours scheduled in 2020.

It was an emotional moment for Joshua Thomson as he spent time introspecting and struggling with the emotional disquiet of the national trauma wrecked by black summer, the devastating fires that destroyed 18.6 million hectares of pristine forests, burnt 3,000 homes, claiming dozens of lives.

Read: Massive Mediterranean Wildfires: Ravages The Region Along With Extreme Weather

The Australian Dancers Depicted The Devastation Wrought By The Australian Fires On The Fragile Continent

Thomson was moved and was frustrated at the feeling of hopelessness at the little he could do for the troubled.

He got thinking about ways to represent and awaken the conversation on climate change. He chose a medium that was the opposite of fire, ice.

The Australian continent is the world’s driest, and he decided to put on something that would be at its most fragile on the dry land.

The performance by the Australian dancers continued over 3 days and saw a performance from the 3 artists performing successively on the 2.5-ton ice-block suspended 65 feet up over the Sydney Harbor.

The iceberg slowly melted as the Australian dancers danced across it to bring attention to climate change.

Suspended above Sydney Harbour, the iceberg slowly melted as the Australian dancer, suspended by a harness, danced across it to the eerie music to bring attention to climate change.

As the performers negotiated the slippery and fast-diminishing surface to perform, it became an allegory for the fragility of the planet, fast slipping away from our grasp.

Victoria Hunt was also scheduled to perform as one of the Australian dancers but withdrew to support the festival boycott.  She will be present at THAW’s Launceston show later this month as part of Mona Foma.

The creative producer of THAW, Cecily Hardy is the medium giving shape to the artistic concept conceptualized by Thomson and was also behind the venture’s logistics.

The 4 icebergs were built of 2,700 liters of water each. It took 10 days for the icebergs to freeze inside a steel mold that was custom-made for $30,0000. The whole process of freezing started in November. One of the icebergs was used for the rehearsal.


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The gigantic icebergs were suspended over the western boardwalk of the famed Sydney Opera House by a crane between 14th and 16th January.

The choreography was devised jointly by Thomson and the Australian dancers who performed to the original score created by Matthew Burtner, Alaska sound artist, eco-acoustician, and composer. He is also EcoSono’s director, the non-profit environmental arts organization of Alaska.

The iceberg will melt over 50% during the 9-hour performance on each of the days. Hardy says that more than the heat, it is the wind that has a more immediate effect on the melting of the surface of the ice.

Hardy, who tenderly refers to the iceberg as she, says that the unpredictability surrounding the durability of the iceberg was part of the excitement of the show. He said it was exciting how the iceberg ended up at the end of the show.

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