World Dance Event to Raise Consciousness of the Global Water Crisis (With Video)

It’s been estimated that more than 2.5 billion people – almost one-third of the world’s population – live without adequate sanitation. Each year, five million people die from polluted water. By 2025, more than half of the world's population will face water-related problems. This June, more than 1,000 professional choreographers and dancers around the world hope to create awareness of the local and global water issues, and to inspire their communities to work together to find solutions.

“We want clean water for everyone,” said Global Water Dances organizer Marylee Hardenbergh. “Global Water Dances will raise the awareness of participants and observers about the importance of water, and provide a model for empowering local communities to take action. The event will bring local environmental experts and organizations, artists and members of the community together in a process that can build ongoing collaborations.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), unsafe water causes 4.4 billion cases of diarrhea every year, resulting in 1.5 million deaths, mostly of children under five. A child dies somewhere in the world every 20 seconds from waterborne diarrhea. Overall, WHO figures show that unsafe water kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including war.

On June 25th, dances will be performed in approximately 50 cities around the globe, centered around water issues. The event, called Global Water Dances (, will begin at 5 p.m. local time in the Pacific Rim, rolling westward through the time zones. The dances will also be broadcast online. Participating cities include Beijing, Lima, Vienna, New York, Halifax, Cairo, Mexico City and Berlin.

“Dance is a powerful medium. Studies have shown that the quickest way to make people feel connected is to have them move together to the same rhythm,” explains Hardenbergh, who has been coordinating site-specific dances for more than 25 years. Her 2006 One River Mississippi project, which involved simultaneous performances in seven locations, served as the template for this international event. 

Each Global Water Dances location has its own professional choreographer who will produce a four-part site-specific performance. The first two parts will reflect the importance of water as seen by that local community, with movements created especially for the individual outdoor locations. In part three, all dancers worldwide will perform to the same 8-1/2 minute piece of music written by prominent global musicians. Each 30-60 minute event will conclude with the audience joining in during part four, performing simple movements designed to create a sense of cohesiveness.

“The activities in Global Water Dances will be simple: creating bonds using time, space and rhythm. These aren’t just professionally choreographed stage performances that have been moved outdoors. People of all ages and abilities from the local communities will be participating,” explains Hardenbergh.

Global Water Dances was organized by an international network of dance and non-verbal communication experts who attended a 2008 conference on Environmental Action in connection with Laban Bartenieff Movement Studies in England. The five-person steering committee, which includes choreographers from Halifax, Washington DC, Minneapolis, New York City and Bremen, Germany, watched the video One River Mississippi and were moved to do something on a grander scale. 

“We have two goals. One is to raise awareness about the need for clean water, the other is to use dance to create a sense of community,”  Hardenbergh, who adds that organizers have easily donated more than 10,000 hours to this project so far, said.

Global Water Dances is a model of how to use participatory art to raise consciousness about environmental problems, and how to bring people together to work on solving these problems.

Explains Hardenbergh: “Flow, the medium of dance/movement, can connect community, just as water connects people. Communities grew up and were often defined by the water nearby. Movement also provides an embodied practice for community-building and can foster new understandings and behaviors. Through Global Water Dances we want to connect the local to the global community to safeguard that all humans have access to clean drinking water, so that the water flowing through us is sustaining and not harming us. Taking responsibility for, valuing and protecting water, can shift people easily into other ways of caring for the planet.

“We have at least three times the number of cities participating than I thought we’d have,” she concludes. “There is power in being part of the performance and part of this community dance. This is dancing with intention: It gives people the opportunity to connect their art – which is something they love – and with something relevant in the world.  Together we are creating something wonderful by combining passion with purpose.” 

To find the Global Water Dances location closest to you, make a donation, volunteer or to join the mailing list, visit


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