Inspired by the theatricality of the natural world, the growing awareness of pressing environmental issues, and the desire to push the limits of interdisciplinary performance, “Site-Specific Dances” was founded by choreographer Michael Spencer Phillips and his architect husband Dino Kiratzidis during the pandemic. Their new work, MEGAFLORA, is an immersive multi-channel performance installation set in northern California’s majestic redwood and sequoia forests whose survival is under threat from increasingly frequent, intense, and prolonged wildfires.
MEGAFLORA is at once a physical narrative, a conceptual installation, an elegy to the earth, and a call to arms. The film powerfully juxtaposes the grandeur of the ancient groves and their evolving relationship to natural wildfires in scenes that are as sumptuous as they are prophetic and troubling. And yet, Phillips and Kiratzidis never allow the focus to waver from the relationship between dancers and the trees, which elicits the impression that MEGAFLORA unfolds in a single movement, like one long breath.
The film attunes the audience to a different frequency in which trees and the bodies of the dancers communicate in such a way that brings to mind intimate moments from our own childhoods, our own innate sense of wonder, and the delicacy of existence. MEGAFLORA is neither a documentary nor performance art, but a visual stimulant that draws us into its nook, shares its stories in whispers, and deftly acknowledges our sorrow for the earth.
Partnering with The Sempervirens Fund, the team is currently conducting a series of interviews with environmental experts including scientists, park rangers, and Indigenous community leaders that will help illuminate the causes and potential solutions to this crisis. While the arts and the sciences are traditionally separated from one another, the MEGAFLORA is a bold attempt to weave these two components into an immersive “art-science” hybrid and a new model of performance-based environmental advocacy.
*The final video-based performance of MEGAFLORA will feature music composed and arranged by Polina Nazaykinskaya for all ballet sequences. Immersive soundscapes created by Darian Donovan Thomas will accompany the interviews, integrating the spoken word into his sonic environments.