Ice Cycle (2015)

Ice Cycle is a dance expressing the fragility and dynamism of the Arctic icescape. It was inspired by choreographer Jody Sperling’s journey to the Chukchi Sea and her experience dancing there on polar sea ice.

PREMIERE: June 20, 2015 at The JCC Manhattan
LENGTH: 31 Minutes, 6 Dancers
ORIGINAL MUSIC: Matthew Burtner
COSTUMES: Mary Jo Mecca
LIGHTING: David Ferri
PROJECTION DESIGN: Matthew Haber & Chelsie McPhilimy


Notes from the Artistic Director about the project:

“In spring 2014, I had the unprecedented opportunity to dance in the Arctic. I accompanied a 43-day scientific expedition to the Chukchi Sea, north of the Bering Strait, as the first-ever choreographer-in-residence aboard the US Coast Guard Cutter Healy. The purpose of the interdisciplinary science mission was to study the relationship between the thinning Arctic ice sheet and increased under-ice phytoplankton blooms. The international science team was led by biologist Dr. Kevin Arrigo, ice specialist Dr. Chris Polashenski and physical oceanographer Dr. Robert Pickart (whose NSF grant funded the residency).

During the journey, I had the incredible opportunity to dance at a dozen ice deployments. You can see me dancing on the ice in the short film Ice Floe.

On my journey, I fell in love with sea ice and want to tell its story. With Ice Cycle, I’m aiming to transport the dynamism and fragility of sea ice to the stage. Sea ice is fascinating. It undergoes radical transformations throughout the year. It’s porous and, amazingly, has the same mathematical structure as human bone. The sea ice environment is expansive and austere. The violent way floes fracture, collide and form pressure ridges is geology in fast-motion. Lastly, sea ice is endangered. Anthropogenic climate change is dramatically changing the extent, thickness and age of sea ice. We’ve already lost a staggering 80% of Arctic sea ice volume. Models predict that by 2040 the Arctic Ocean will be largely ice-free during the summer months.

For this project, I collaborated with Alaskan-born composer Matthew Burtner. A pioneer in the field of eco-acoustics, Matthew has done extensive field recordings in the Arctic, including many sub-ice where I danced, and has used these and other ice-inflected sounds to create stunningly beautiful music.

The costumes, created by designer Mary Jo Mecca, form mobile screens for projections of ice imagery orchestrated by projection designer Matthew Haber. My long-time collaborator David Ferri designed the lighting. Pele Bauch acted as dramaturge for the project.

For years I’ve been deeply concerned about the effects of climate change. With this project I have the opportunity to align my artistic vision with a personal yearning to acknowledge what’s happening in the world right now. I hope that by bringing the plight of sea ice “home” to different theaters, the work will inspire action to protect it. As we look towards touring the piece, I’m especially interested in drawing connections between what is happening in the polar regions and the local impacts of climate change.”

-Jody Sperling