Pomona College's Mellon Elemental Arts Initiative will present Matthew Nelson's Permaculture Dance Project workshop, performance and film, all of which explore principles of sustainable design through the aesthetics of contemporary dance. Students will have the opportunity to study with Nelson and perform ecologist and ecological design engineer David Holmgren's 12 principles of permaculture through movement. The workshop will be held Feb. 1-8, with a student performance and screening of Nelson's film on Thursday, Feb. 7, starting at 6:30 p.m. outside Rose Hills Theatre.

Permaculture is a branch of ecological design and engineering that develops sustainable human settlements and self-maintained agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems

Among Holmgren's principles of permaculture are: catch and store energy; observe and interact; obtain a yield; use and value renewable resources and services; produce no waste; and creatively use and respond to change. Nelson, who worked with four dancers and a videographer to produce the film at Zena Farm, an organic farm at Williamette University where he teaches, investigates these principles through movement.

"I often hear people claim that dancing bodies become broken down through the practice of dancing and performing. I don't think this needs to be the case--choosing movement that sustains and increases the capacity of the body is possible just as permaculture shows that farming the land can increase rather than decrease its health and capacitance," says Nelson. "In an abstract, meditative and uniquely informative visual journey, the screen becomes a window to the fantastical and the concrete in motion—superimposing aspects of place, people and purpose," he says of the film.

No dance experience is necessary for students who wish to participate in the workshop sessions. Class credit is available with participation. For more information, contact (909) 621-8176.

The Elemental Arts Initiative (EAI) is a four-year project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Each year, the project focuses on one of four elements: water, earth, air and fire. This semester's upcoming EAI events exploring earth include:

  • Jan. 31: A Negro Speaks Of Rivers – Performance by Margaret Kemp (Allen Theatre, Seaver Theatre building, 7–9 p.m.)
  • Jan. 31: PlanEat – Food Justice Film Series (Rose Hills Theatre, 7-9 p.m.)
  • Feb. 1-8:  Permaculture Dance Project (Pendleton Dance Studios)
  • Feb. 7: Permaculture Dance Project, film and performance (Rose Hills Theatre and around Smith Campus Center, 6:30–8 p.m.)
  • Feb. 15: New Play Festival – original 10-minute plays on the theme of EARTH— Allen Theatre, 4–6 p.m.
  • March 14: Urban Roots – Food Justice Film Series (Rose Hills Theatre, 7-9 p.m.)
  • March 14: Theatre for Young Audiences – play devised and performed by students from the Claremont Colleges and Fremont Academy in the city of Pomona (Seaver Theatre Main Stage, 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.)
  • March 30: Witness – dance performance inspired by the work of Samella Lewis (Pendleton Upper Studio, 6–8 p.m.)
  • April 16 or 18 (date TBD): Watershed – film screening in conjunction with Earth Day (Rose Hills Theatre, 8–10 p.m.)
  • May 2–5: Elemental Arts Environmental Analysis Symposium (time and location TBD)

About the Elemental Arts Initiative 

The Elemental Arts Initiative project is a mix of new and re-aligned offerings, including: 

  • Guest artist residencies in Theatre, Dance, Music and ArtAnnual Symposium and Film Series curated by Environmental Analysis
  • Summer Experience in the Arts (SEA), modeled on the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) but exclusively for summer projects in the arts
  • ArtsInspiration, a competition for student-initiated projects
  • Theme-based arts programming on campus, such as the 10-Minute Play Festival, Spring Dance Concert, campus concerts and exhibitions
  • Theatre for Young Audiences, a community partnership with the Fremont Academy in the Pomona Unified School District
  • ArtsImmersion, a practice-based, experiential course involving all four arts departments

For more information on the Elemental Arts Initiative, visit: http://elementalarts.pomona.edu/.