Typically, a dancer’s costume is made of a material like silk or satin, but this summer a dancer came to Glacier Park to perform in a recyclable plastic dress to remind us of the harmful effects of plastic waste on the environment.
Glacier National Park’s Artist-in-Residence Program offers artists the opportunity to pursue their artistic discipline while surrounded by the park’s inspiring landscape. The artists of the month for June were Ilana Goldman and Gabriel Williams.
Goldman is an associate professor at Florida State University’s School of Dance and is a performer, choreographer, director and editor on their film while her husband and fellow dancer, Williams, is the videographer.
They unite their artistic talents to create short dance films. Previous works by Goldman and Willams showcase dramatic natural landscapes, so the duo was a good fit for the program.
“We had been to Glacier before and thought it would be the perfect setting for this project, which is a dance short film that will investigate human impact on the earth,” Goldman explained.
“Glacier landscapes are grand and imposing and a testament to the power, strength and resilience of the natural world, but melting glaciers are a constant and clear reminder of the human impact on the environment,” said she added.
Goldman and Williams have made three dance shorts which have screened at a number of international film festivals and they also plan to submit their film Glacier Park. The artists will deliver their film to the park when it is finished and as part of their residency, the duo led three filmmaking workshops, one in Glacier and two in Waterton Park at the end of their stay.
For the short film they produced while on Glacier, the pair focused on the effect humans have on nature. Composer Patrick McKinney provides the score for their film which features the park and Goldman’s dance with the “not so subtle” message of environmentalism.
Goldman made her suit from plastic waste she generated over a four-month period. She said looking at a bag full of her plastic recycling is what inspired this project.
“Collecting my plastic waste has been humbling,” Goldman said. “It makes you aware, aware of your impact when you clearly see the amount of waste you are producing.”
The most recent figures from the Environmental Protection Agency, from 2018, reveal that of the 35.7 million tons of plastic generated in the United States that year, 76% ended up in landfills.
Goldman suggested that while individuals can make a difference, real change will happen when large organizations get involved.
“If companies and businesses start using biodegradable materials instead of plastics, the impact will be huge,” Goldman said. “That’s something I learned from that experience.”
For their stay, the two received a “very special and coveted moose sticker on our dashboard” which allowed them to travel through the park. The artists also had access to a furnished, rustic cabin on the shores of Lake McDonald, with no cell phone service or internet.
“It’s a huge luxury to spend an entire month non-stop working on an art project while still being able to spend a month exploring Glacier,” Goldman said. “It’s a dream come true.”
In addition to working on their film project, the couple had the opportunity to explore Glacier. Goldman found the Iceberg Lake hike to be his all-time favorite hike.
“It’s just amazingly beautiful,” agreed Williams. “We saw four moose and a grizzly on the way.”
Although Williams admits the two picked up plastic waste in the park to throw away, he and Goldman said their time at the park gave them hope.
“Even with the human activity (and) impact here, you can get a sense, a little taste of the wilderness that this country had everywhere and it’s very special,” Williams said. “The ruggedness of the mountains, the incredible raw power of the water flowing through this park. It’s nature on a different scale, a magnitude most people don’t experience in their normal day-to-day lives in our tame towns and villages.
Goldman says the park has been inspirational and added, “I have great hope to be here because I see the resilience of the earth and its incredible ability to change and adapt.”
She is convinced that watching a dance film or experiencing any type of art allows the viewer to reflect on their own relationship with what is presented. Goldman explained that in the film, she is a human being in a beautiful natural environment, and by watching, people can feel empathy for the place.
Williams’ hope is that when people experience the park, whether in person or through their film, transformations occur.
“Maybe it will make them a little more open to changing their relationship with the land, the environment, their impact, their behavior, their consciousness,” Williams said. “I think a place like this has the potential to be a catalyst for change for people.”
Their film should be finished by the end of the year. To see the film, go to the Glacier Park website or www.ilanagoldman.org