Image by Gregory Lorenzutti
Sarah Aitken and Rebecca Jensen of Deep Soulful Sweats want you to fight your climate change inertia within their participatory eco-horror, What Am I Supposed To Do?.
WAISTD includes six performers but no audience members – Aitken and Jensen met at uni while studying dance, where the seed of their collaboration was planted for innovative ways to transform audiences into performers. The Deep Soulful Sweats project has been running since 2013 and has hosted participatory dance experiences at venues such as Dark MOFO, the Ian Potter Museum of Art and Castlemaine Festival.
“It started as a fundraiser, and ended up sustaining itself,” Aitken says of the project.
WAISTD is arguably the pair’s most ambitious task to date. It pushes the participatory nature of their collaboration to untouched lengths and towards a central question for today’s society: Why are we not doing more to tackle the climate crisis?
“The audience is invited to play their part in an environmental horror, which they are also playing in the real world,” Jensen says of the underlying connection between the performance and our external reality.
Aitken and Jensen want audience members to feel the same powerlessness they do towards our climate crisis and the show’s crowd involvement heightens this. Throughout, dance is used as a mirror-device rather than a form of escapism which we often crave in our engagement with art.
“We’re using the theatre space as a metaphor for what we’re experiencing in the world, and feeling at times they’re not so different,” Aitken says.
Do we care? Are we trying to escape what is our reality? How do we overcome despair?
These are central questions audiences will explore alongside Aitken and Jensen as the unpredictability and complicit nature of being human plays itself out in real time within the theatre space.
WAISTD’s allows for audience members to come to terms with their own individualised feelings of fear, regret and grief, and turn them towards a newfound hope.
“Our experience of the world right now is one of fear for the future and a grief for what is lost,” Aitken says.
“We’re getting more scared but not more active,” Jensen adds.
The duo don’t want their show to be about someone’s politics, but rather an artistic window into examining how something is operating in the real world.
“Dance isn’t a good communicator of the literal or the factual,” Jensen says.
Perhaps, then, the dance medium is perfect for audiences who want to discover their true feelings away from the constant barrage of information we are delivered about climate change.
“Which is one of its strengths. We’re given so much written and verbal communication constantly, but dance is this other way of operating,” Aitken says.
“This work is grounded in dance and choreographic thinking, but you don’t need to come in with any dance experience to access the work and feel comfortable participating in it,” Jensen assures those with two left feet.
Aitken emphasises that the wider project is environmentally sustainable so the message is highlighted from all directions.
“We make sure everything we use in the work is from the op-shop, or a bin, or existing already. We don’t create waste,” Aitken says.
A testament to the entire project.
“We practice what we are wanting to do, and it’s certainly not the easy way,” Jensen says.
What Am I Supposed To Do? (WAISTD) takes over Arts Centre Melbourne’s Fairfax Studio as part of Melbourne Fringe from Wednesday September 18 to Sunday September 22. Find out more and buy tickets via the venue website.