Dancing in the Echelons’: A Reference Point for Finding Heritage in a Mangrove Ecosystem. Performative presentation for 46th ICTM World Conference, University of Lisbon, Portugal. Presenter: Jacqueline Dreessens – University of Limerick, Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. Ethnochoreology, ecochoreologist, choreographer, dancer, independent researcher and arts practitioner. I wanted to explore my sense of connection to the mangrove forest by investigating the sacred spaces between the spaces by embodying the space. Where does the light travel within and around the branches? What pathways in the space does it travel along and through? How does this interconnection of light and murky muddy waters unfold into flexible limbs that sustain the comfort for creatures? Created during the COVID-19 pandemic, Echelons tells a story of transformation, finding meaning and intergenerational connection in a mangrove ecosystem. The coastal mangrove forest at Lake Connewarre on Wadawurrung lands of the Kulin Nation in Barwon Heads and Ocean Grove, Victoria, Australia, is a beautiful haven for an extraordinary ecosystem of animal and plant life. I would like to pay my respect and acknowledge the Wadawurrung, First Nation people, their Elders past, present and emerging for taking care of the land for over 60,000 years. Mangroves constitute a fascinating habitat, an interface between the terrestrial and the marine environment located in the zone between the high tide and the low tide. They act as a bridge between the ecosystems found on land and in the sea, providing a safe haven for many organisms. They are one of the most productive and diverse wetlands on earth, yet these unique coastal forests are one of the most threatened habitats in the world. The rate of loss of mangrove forests is 3 – 4 times higher than that of terrestrial forests! Since 1980, there has been a loss of about 20% of mangrove forests in the world. This information has been provided by the Environment Agency- Abu Dhabi. (Zeytoun Millie 2021). Mangrove trees have so many special characteristics. The roots of mangroves not only help stabilize the tree in one of the most dynamic zones on earth but also help take in air, water, including pollutants, and these trees actually breathe through their roots. Knowing that the mangroves, as this natural filtration system, is under threat by urban development and erosion, I seek to emphasise the importance of finding heritage in mangroves that “act as a reference point for cultural identity and popular memory in Victoria” (Zaytoun Millie 2021:13). As a choreographer, I contribute to contemporary storytelling through live dance performance and film by acknowledging what Raffaele Rufo describes as “reciprocity of perception” (Rufo 2021a). The film you are watching entitled, “Echelons” explores the sacred spaces between spaces within a threatened mangrove forest. As a dancer, I develop my connection to place through embodied experience and performance ritual (Milgrom 2020; Laidlow and Beer 2018; Nelson 2018; Hunt 2015, Kramer 2012). This choreographic investigation into the ecology of the mangroves takes place while kayaking on the waterways, at an intersection of poetry, film, sound, authentic movement response and dance improvisation (Olsen 2017; Barbour 2011; Ingold 2009; MacDougall 2005). The embodied experience of being in the mangroves was recorded from the water, in the trees, on the branches and upon the shoreline. The film direction centered around my sensorial experience (Pink 2016), exploring the question: What is my permanent reality manifesting in this transient moment? I used poetry to describe my embodied experience of being in the mangrove forest. A live dance performance occurred (in present real time), in front of our ten-minute film (past real time) and was presented to a live audience at the Opening of the ‘Mangroves from the Water’ exhibition at the Gordon Gallery, Geelong (Zaytoun Millie 2021). Together, the audience and I simultaneously experience my future-present self, dancing with my past embodied experience of being within the mangrove ecosystem and “opening our senses and imagination to arboreal livingness and responsiveness” (Rufo 2021b). Jacqueline Dreessens – film concept and direction, choreographer, dancer, ecochoreologist, headdress concept and construction, ethtnochoreology.………

Enrico Santucci – videographer, editor, photographer, soundscape, producer.

Jen Farthing – costume design and construction

Jacqui Dreessens