. . . we can sense the world around us only because we are entirely a part of this world, because by virtue of our own carnal density and dynamism we are wholly embedded in the depths of the earthly sensuous. We are born of these very waters, this very air, this loamy soil, this sunlight. Nourished and sustained by the substance of the breathing earth, we are flesh of its flesh. David Abram, Becoming Animal

When you arrive in a new place, in just a few days the 70% of your body that is water is now from that watershed. Andrea Olsen, Body and Earth


Download RIVER/BODY WORKSHOP description

Thank you for your glorious piece. It is haunting me. In a good way. The integrity of your work and the unwavering commitment and embodied practice the dancers brought to the piece, to the river, was glorious and unique. I think a lot about "site specific" work and "social practice." To see this kind of work done so well, with such depth and rigor clearly evident, is inspiring and refreshing. There was no gimmick, no skimming, but instead it felt like you were sharing an honest reverence for the river. Your invitation into a multi-dimensional experience really changed the way we could see and think about the water. I cannot thank you enough.

My son Abie was moved as well. He kept asking questions: Were the dancers dolphins? Do you think they choreographed the water drops? Were the cloths supposed to be more river that they could move around? Was the woman singing or speaking? Do you think she made that up or planned it? Do you think she was singing to the river or to us?

Kara Gilmour, Senior Director of Community, Training and Artist Services at Gibney Dance Center, NYC.

RIVER/BODY is a site-specific, multidisciplinary, community-engaging dance project inspired by the Housatonic River and watershed, created by Paula Josa-Jones in collaboration with dancers Amy Wynn, Aislinn MacMaster, Dillon Paul, DeAnna Pellecchia and actor Evangeline Johns.

Inspired by and performed in the Housatonic River, RIVER/BODY asks, how does the continuous coming and going of the river waters, parallel our lives? What are our own wild currents? What is the heart of the river, the mind of the river and how are we a part of each other?

Our intention is to express the connections between the body of the river and our own wild, fluid bodies - the intense and immediate ways we are inseparably intertwined. We are water bodies living on a water planet. RIVER/BODY is about awakening the sensual, compassionate heart of that relationship.

We live on a water planet: 70% of the earth's surface is covered with water. We are water beings: 60 - 70% of the human body is water. Our once casual relationship to water and often unconscious relationship to our own bodies are co-mingled in the growing social and ecological crises. RIVER/BODY is our response to the global rising tide of water-related concerns and connects with all of the water-is-life efforts around the globe. We want to make dance - the precious vulnerability and eloquence of the moving body - an essential part of that conversation.

The Housatonic - named usi-a-di-en-uk meaning beyond the mountains - is wild and turbulent in some places, bucolic in others, running from Pittsfield, Massachusetts to the Long Island Sound. Besides its extraordinary beauty, the river has a troubled history, involving the unregulated dumping of toxic chemicals by General Electric upriver, which continues to affect the entire river habitat, including fish, frogs, turtles, and waterfowl. The river waters upstream are still contaminated. Further downstream, the PCBs are held in the silt of the river bottom and the banks.

When the dancers and I first entered the river last summer, we had no idea how powerful and emotional that experience would be. Almost immediately, we felt ourselves in an intimate, even tender relationship with the beingness of the river. Then a friend sent me this beautiful story by Lakota artist and activist Pat McCabe, and I understood that as we moved with the waters, we were feeling the very consciousness of the water. For more about that, watch this video by Bernd Muller.

Dancing in the river is very different from dancing on a stage or a grassy lawn. There are the slippery rocks, the fallen logs, the continuous, persuasive current. Entering the water, we are blending our bodies with the body of the river - allowing ourselves to be danced by the waters. Every performance is unique and shaped by the river on that day.

and from the audience:

Did seeing the River/Body performance change the way you think about the river?
It changed my relationship with the river and the water that flows around and under my home.

Yes, it heightened my sense of the river as something that is literally and metaphysically beyond how we general see (with our eyesight) the river.

Have always appreciated the river but now even more by having a quiet close up contemplation of the Housatonic River and thoughtful reverence of all the rivers of the world through the dance and music presented.

I have been aware of its beauty, how its power has been harnessed, and have spent many hours along its banks. Listening to its flow regenerates me. The performance gave the life-giving force of the river a more prominent place in my awareness.

We are the river-the river is us.

It made me focus on the power, strength and vitality of the river, and how we are all interconnected to that energy. I saw the river as a life force.

Interesting that one's body is 70% water from the local watershed - brings it "home".

As it comes from other bodies of water and goes to other bodies of water, expanding, condensing but holding all of "where it has been" even as we come in contact with it in unexpected or seldom thought of ways.

Greater appreciation for the waters that flow across the lands...and in the oceans..over time as our history was unfolding and weathering.

i felt more connected to the source of water within myself

I look at it as part of me now.

RIVER/BODY is supported by and created in collaboration with Housatonic Heritage, the Martha Boschen Porter Fund, the Berkshire Taconic Foundation, the Housatonic Valley Association, Northwest Connecticut Arts Council, Steep Rock Association, and filmmaker Ben Willis and his students from The Marvelwood School.