Danielle Nierenberg: 'We're trying to bring joy to what can be uncomfortable issues'
- Kelly Apter
- 9 August 2021
Merging storytelling, song, movement and a fictional language, WeCameToDance brings a positive eco message to the Fringe
One of the many theatrical casualties of the past year, WeCameToDance was due to open off-Broadway in 2020. But New York's loss has proved to be Edinburgh's gain, with the show making its debut at this year's Fringe. Billed as an 'interactive, interplanetary musical experience', WeCameToDance is the brainchild of Food Tank, an American non-profit organisation set up to educate, inspire and create positive change within the global food system.
'What Food Tank tries to do is bridge different audiences,' explains its president, Danielle Nierenberg. 'And the arts community has a lot of potential to teach people about the issues we talk about – the climate crisis, food insecurity, food waste – and provide awareness and education in creative ways. With WeCameToDance, we're really trying to bring joy to what can often be uncomfortable issues, so people understand that they have a role to play in the solution.'
Although originally workshopped by an American cast, the show is being performed in Scotland by a homegrown team drawn from superb Leith-based dance troupe, House Of Jack. They've taken on the task of not just delivering the story, but speaking and singing in a whole new dialect when they play visitors from the fictional planet Hanyana. 'It's a fully functioning language built by David Peterson who invented Valyrian and Dothraki for Game Of Thrones and he's also done all the Marvel movies,' says the show's creative producer, Bernard Pollack. 'And we also worked with exoplanet expert Dr Steve Howell from NASA, so that Hanyana could be based on a real planet – TRAPPIST-1d – which is considered our nearest habitable planet.'
The show features the people of Hanyana journeying to Earth to fill us in on the climate crisis that happened on their own planet, and how they took steps to stop and reverse it. The idea is that we can learn a few lessons and do much the same ourselves. It's a salient message to share at the Fringe, and one the team also hopes to present in Glasgow this November during the COP26 climate talks. 'The show brings together the science community, the performing arts community and the food movement to really highlight how the food system is one of the solutions in solving the climate crisis,' says Pollack. 'It's a very family friendly show, and there's nobody better to make dance and song more accessible than House Of Jack.'
Co-directed by House Of Jack's founder Ashley Jack and its studio producer Becky Enoch (who, incredibly, was an exoplanet scientist before turning to dance), WeCameToDance aims to get everyone involved in some way. 'We've made it as accessible as possible for everyone,' says Jack. 'Whether you need to sit in a chair and dance or if you're two years old and just want to jump around, there are options so that everybody can try something. We know what kind of audiences we get in Scotland – even some of my friends said "I'm not going if I have to join in" – and that's why with this show it so great, because there's an important message, a nice punchy script, amazing music. So even if they just sway from side to side, they're still listening to a lovely story.'
WeCameToDance, Nicolson Square, until Saturday 28 August (not Sundays and Mondays), various times, £10 (£5), family ticket £5.50.