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On World Environment Day, Ashley Lobo showcases a piece on climate change in Washington DC

Ashley Lobo’s choreography for Washington DC

‘Y Zero’, was created online for Company | E to bring urgent attention to the definitive existential crisis of our time

On the occasion of World Environment Day, acclaimed choreographer and educator Ashley Lobo hopes earth citizens will use this moment in time to address climate change and create a collective movement of thought and action to restore the planet to health. On June 5, during the observance of World Environment Day events globally, Ashley Lobo will do his bit and join four international choreographers for the world premiere of his piece ‘Y Zero’ that he created for Company | E as part of their latest edition of NEXT: WARMER performances to be staged live at the Fabian Barnes Theater, the Dance Institute of Washington. Other choreographers include Emese Nagy (Hungary), Robert Rubama and Rayven Leak (USA) along with Maddie Hanson (Canada). The purpose of the piece is to make the audience ‘experience’ the earth like a living organism that has been broken, torn and battered.

The challenges of virtual choreography were however numerous. Ashley explains, “To represent the five elements, I worked with five international dancers remotely over hours of rehearsals, five days a week, in their own homes and later in a studio via Zoom. For me, the main challenge was to physically demonstrate a duet, which is very hard without an assistant or sharing physical movement and energy. The dancers however were very open to my rather different process of choreography. Because they were so receptive even though they happened to be virtual strangers, I was able to create a 23-minute piece in just 20 to 25 hours online. I combined contemporary dance, dance theatre and even pedestrian movements to engage the audience with the intentionality of the piece and its rhythm.”

Climate change has been a part of Company | E’s choreographic mission since their first ‘WARMER’ concert in 2008 and Ashley’s piece, ‘Y Zero’ elucidates his belief in the interconnectedness of life. He says, “All of us are interlinked but we have created disharmony by treating the universe a certain way. Still, it has its own way of restoring balance and communicates its discomfort by manifesting pandemics, climate change spirals and showing signs of global warming. All of this is nothing but symptomatic of environmental imbalance playing itself out. If we are balanced within, we will not seek imbalance outside. It all boils down to us and what we can do for global well-being. When I did this piece, I looked at the earth as a living entity in its own right. Would we, without a care, do to a human being what we do to the earth? We so casually hack the earth into pieces, drain it of all its life force, stab it, disfigure it and suffocate it with plastic bags. Is that human? If doing this to a human being is wrong, how can we do this to the earth which is an intrinsic part of us and vice-versa? How can the earth sustain us when we treat it with such cruelty?” The core idea behind the choreography was to evoke a personal response from the audience and Ashley is confident that the piece will achieve that.

About his equation with Company | E, he says, “I have always loved working with artistes across the world. My choreography piece YAMA for instance was done for Landestheater Linz, Austria. And another piece AGNI which I created with Navdhara India Dance Theatre had an international premiere at Suzanne Dellal Centre for Dance and Theatre in Tel Aviv. The cycle of this international exchange of the arts was briefly paused due to the pandemic but am happy that we have found a way around that snd I am once again doing what I love best.”