Science through dance

by Kelly Corbett
Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Supplied photo courtesy of Justine Bursoni Photography 

Armitage Gone! Dance performs the world premiere of “Fables on Global Warming” on Sept. 25 at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Mixing fables, dance, costumes and music, the world premiere tour of “Fables on Global Warming” is coming to Wilmington during a weeklong artist residency ending with a public performance on Saturday, Oct. 26.

Tony-nominated choreographer Karole Armitage, of Armitage Gone! Dance, and her collaborators will be connecting with University of North Carolina Wilmington students and community members through school performances, meet and greets and panel discussions during their stay.

Armitage said she grew up for part of the year at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Colorado, where the longest running research project on global warming takes place.

For the piece, she worked with biologist Dr. John Harte, who conducts research at the laboratory.

“I wanted to do something about climate change and I could only imagine scenarios that were doom and gloom or lecture-like, and I knew that was the wrong way to bring this subject to an audience,” Armitage said. “I wanted to give the subjects hearts and emotion and let people feel their own connection to nature.”

She then stumbled upon the idea of using fables, stories told by animals of the ruling class and written for the children, about how to use power wisely or poorly.

“At the heart, there’s an ethical issue,” Armitage said. “… And they all take place in nature.”

The one-hour piece includes 13 scenes and 11 fables from around the world. 

“There is always kind of a philosophical, personal journey in my pieces, but they’re more about what is meaningful in life,” Armitage said. “I’ve never done anything that was quite this topical, and I’ve never done pure storytelling.”

Composer and lyricist Corey Dargel, who will be dressed as a big thicket hog-nosed skunk to represent extinct North American animals, said the piece appeals to an audience of all ages and experiences.

Dargel said he plays the role of narrator and is the only person who says or sings anything throughout the entire show, which features more visual than verbal language.

“That’s one of the things that makes it so appealing to a wide range of people,” Dargel said. “… People are, I think, surprised by the piece, pleasantly so.”

The process to create the piece took years. Armitage read through world literature fables from around the world to make her choices. She then collaborated with Dargel on the music. The artists used trial and error to make sure the puppets and costumes paired well with dancers and dance moves.

The public performance will be at 8 p.m. at the University of North Carolina Wilmington Kenan Auditorum. Tickets are $20 for the general public, $16 for university faculty and staff, $8 for students and youth and free for university students. For more information, visit 

“You’re transported into this other world and then you come back to reality,” Armitage said. “It really is like a dream, an enchantment.”


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