Marty Clear

Bradenton dancers take part in national Water Dance project

At right, Leymis Bolanos Wilmott, the artistic director of Sarasota Contemporary Dance, and drummer/dancer Jahrel Thompson, lead a Water Dance rehearsal on Bradenton's Riverwalk.PROVIDED PHOTO
At right, Leymis Bolanos Wilmott, the artistic director of Sarasota Contemporary Dance, and drummer/dancer Jahrel Thompson, lead a Water Dance rehearsal on Bradenton's Riverwalk.PROVIDED PHOTO

On Saturday afternoon, thousands of dancers at more than 100 locations around the United States will simultaneously perform a work meant to celebrate their communities' relationships with water.

About 75 of those dancers will be right here in Bradenton dancing on the

Riverwalk.

The local dancers are part of the National Water Dance project. They'll start dancing at 4 p.m., exactly the same time as all the other companies in towns from New England to Hawaii.

The national project is directed by Dale Andree, a Miami-based dancer and choreographer. "Our first year was in 2011, when it was the Florida Waterways project, and it was just statewide," she said. "This is our second year for the national project, and we do it every two years,"

In 2014, Water Dance included about 80 organizations in 26 states with about 12,000 dancers. This year about 120 groups in 32 states are participating, and there's no way of knowing exactly how many dancers will be involved.

"There are some companies that have three people," she said. "In Los Angeles, it's supposed to be, literally, the entire Los Angeles Unified School District. And they'll have a live orchestra."

The idea, she said, is to have groups in different communities create movement pieces that relate to the way residents relate to water. Since every community has a different relationship with water -- Floridans will have a different idea of water than people in New York -- each group will have something different to say.

Leymis Bolanos Wilmott, artistic director of Sarasota Contemporary Dance, is heading the local effort.

She worked with all the Manatee County public schools with dance programs plus dancers from her own company and dance students from New College in Sarasota to create the Bradenton element. All the pieces around the country are supposed to be performed near water so Wilmott is setting hers on Bradenton's Riverwalk.

"I live in Manatee County," she said, "and I know how hard it was to get that Riverwalk. So I'm excited to be doing what is sort of a site-specific piece here."

When she and her colleagues went into the schools, they asked students to create movements showing how they felt about water. She took bits from all of them to put together the half-hour work they'll perform Saturday.

Each group around the country -- ranging from schools and universities to professionals dance companies -- sent clips of their work to Andree. She created two short movement phrases based on those clips. At exactly 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, all the 120 or so groups around the United States will begin with one of those phrases Andree created, and they'll all end about 30 minutes later with the other phrase.

In between, they'll all do work entirely their own.

All performances will be streamed live on the project website nationalwaterdance.org and posted on the site later. You won't get to see all of the Bradenton performance -- the online video will switch from one city to another.

Wilmott said her involvement in the project came in a roundabout way.

Photographer Lynne Buchanan, a longtime Sarasota resident who now lives in Micanopy, is exhibiting at the South Florida Museum. Her show, "Changing Waters: The Human Impact on Florida's Aquatic Systems," is a celebration of the beauty of Florida's waters and a document of the threats to those same waters.

Buchanan, whom Wilmott calls "a long-time supporter of dance," got the idea of having dancers from Sarasota Contemporary Dance perform in the museum to complement her exhibit.

It was just by coincidence Wilmott and Buchanan found out about the National Water Dance project, and added the outdoor performance on the Riverwalk.

The Bradenton element of the Water Dance project will take place on the Riverwalk just a few hundred feet east of the museum. Dancers range in age from 5 to about 38, and they'll be accompanied by a drummer. It's free and open to the public.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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