Blanca Li has put her environmental convictions into practice in her new dance work, and by making changes in her own life.
Solstice, which premièred recently in Paris, addresses how to “provide for the development of our civilisation without exhausting our planet”. She believes it is “urgent”that information about the state of the earth is “circulated”. She told Our Planet: “Communication is fundamental. People have to be informed of the real dangers of living in polluted environments so that they understand and support every political decision that helps reduce pollution. We also have to learn to consume differently.”
She adds: “Pollution is a matter of public health and it has a very strong impact on our everyday lives. The recent Lancet Commission report on pollution and health revealed that it is the largest environmental cause of disease and death in the world today, responsible for an estimated 9 million premature deaths”.
Born in Granada, Spain, in 1964, she has created choreographies for the Paris Opera Ballet, the Berlin Ballet, and the Metropolitan Opera as well as for film-makers like Pedro Almodovar and Michel Gondry, and musical artists including Paul McCartney, Beyoncé, Kanye West, Coldplay and Daft Punk. In France, she has been made an Officer of the Légion d'Honneur, Officer in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and Chevalier of the Ordre National du Mérite as well as being awarded the Gold Medal of Fine Arts in Spain.
Her work flits between dance styles from classical to contemporary to many kinds of club dances and has drawn inspiration from a host of sources, from Moroccan Gnawa trance ceremonies to ancient Greek art. She witnessed the birth of hip-hop in New York and created a Flamenco Rap Band, before setting up her own dance company and studios in Paris in the 1990s.
She has often engaged with contemporary issues, saying “I like to give life to all that's in my brain”. She staged a show in 2002 reflecting the 9/11 attacks, while her Robot was inspired by the growth of technology. “Art” she told Our Planet,” can reflect the world we live in and make us think about it. Dance is my most natural and efficient way of expression when an issue is on my mind”.
The approach she takes in Solstice is, she says, “the logical continuation of Robot”. She explains: “The two themes are part of our contemporary lives. On the one hand, we are experiencing an incredible technological revolution, which is making us dependent upon – and in interaction with – machines. On the other hand, we are concerned about the future of the planet and the effects of climate change, and we are trying to correct an evolution that frightens us”.
The idea of the new show emerged when “I decided I needed to do something more concrete for the planet”. At first, she adds, “I was thinking about celebrating the beauty and the power of nature. But the more I worked on the project the more I started to realise I wanted to be more percussive and committed.
“The dance has been very much inspired by tribal dances from all over the world, which generally refer to nature. This show really talks about the relationships between men and nature, and how much we depend on it. It tells how important it is for us to take care of our planet”.
In the meantime, she says, “I am doing my best to change things in my everyday life. I use shared electric cars when I am in Paris. I changed all my cleaning products in order to reduce pollution at home. I do not use disposable plastic items, and I recycle as much as I can. From clothes to electronic devices and batteries to oils etc. I recycle pretty much everything. And, in my shows, I am always trying to recycle pieces of cloth and elements of decors and give everything a second life.
“I try to eat as natural and organic as I can. I am careful about the amount of water I consume, and always try not to use too much. My wish would be to make people realize they can act too, by doing small things. Even if it is not easy, every small gesture we make can help change the world.”.