Australian Dance Theater Tackles Climate Change at Peak Performances With ‘Cut The Sky’

In a cry for a common cause, dance, video, poetry and song will collide on stage at Montclair State University’s Alexander Kasser Theater.

Marrugeku’s “Cut The Sky.” (Photo by Jon Green)

Presented by Peak Performances, Marrugeku, Australia’s distinguished dance theater ensemble of Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, will make its American debut of “Cut the Sky” on Thursday, Nov. 15 and run through Sunday, Nov. 18.

“The arts can, and in fact, will, ignite a political force that may in fact save our planet,” says Peak Performances executive director Jedediah Wheeler.

Photo by Jon Green

“Cut the Sky” addresses the issue of climate change as caused by human frailty through a multidisciplinary work that combines elements of a rock concert, modern dance and an environmental plea in five acts.

“Cut the Sky” tells the story of Aboriginal Australians on land that has been desecrated by a mining company, and who now must face another extreme weather event as a result of climate change. The 70-minute performance propels the refugees back and forward in time as they revisit conflict with mining companies and contemplate the gift of human life.

“It is very much in-sync with what happened in North Dakota a few years ago, when the fracking industry tried, and succeeded for the most part, to desecrate the sacred land of the Indians in North Dakota,” Wheeler says. “We have to change the way we are consuming our planet.”

Indigenous Programming

Photo by Jon Green

“Cut the Sky” is the second Peak Performances production that is centered on indigenous topics and/or artists this season. The first, Hatuey: Memory of Fire, was an Afro-Cuban Yiddish opera “performed by Cuban, Honduran, Greek, Jewish, and Dominican Americans in Yiddish, Spanish, and English with Afro-Cuban beat,” according to Peak Performances.

For Wheeler, it was important to bring Marrugeku to Peak Performances in support of the work of Indigenous people, and to showcase what artists from other countries are doing.

“There’s a growing movement, very slowly, in our country to acknowledge the Native Americans, and to create a voice to consider the land that belonged to somebody else before we came here,” Wheeler says. “It is an important movement, so I thought, ‘let’s discover something.’ That’s what we do with Peak Performances, we don’t present work that’s normally in the easy categories or work that people are familiar with or that they might see on national television.”

Wheeler will moderate a post-performance conversation with Pilgram and Swain on Saturday, Nov. 17.

Performance schedule:
Thursday, Nov. 15 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. (Moderated post-performance conversation with Marrugeku)
Sunday, Nov. 18 at 3 p.m.

Tickets cost $30 and can be purchased at www.peakperfs.org or at 973-655-5112. Admissions is free to Montclair State University undergraduate students with proof of ID.

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