Solastalgia: Homesick for Gaia
Ella Chebotareva, Adam Brieske, Brock Carter, Bee Elliott
December 5, 2019
Performance Mediums: Dance, video, oral storytelling, recorded song soundtrack
16 minutes

I feel open, vulnerable, and thankful for what we created.
I feel content with all that we left in the room… but feelings still linger of there being more for
us to discover in those 16 minutes together.
I feel like I don’t want to be done, and that I need to continue drawing from this experience, the
ideas, and the questions.
Our performance, “Solastalgia: Homesick for Gaia,” was about the master narrative of separation between humans and the natural world, and how deeply this dominant, human-centered
story is harming us all today. Our piece invites viewers to re-align empathy with the
natural world and each other by slowing down their movements to draw attention to the space
we were in. This looked like doing a synchronized dance that traced the ground up to our arms,
and slowly back down; later revisiting the same sequence with the soil poured out over the
studio floor. Through emotive movements and expressions, the performers illustrated stories of
loss in the world today as more and more people report seeing less salmon in the rivers, the
songs of insects and frogs at night disappearing, light pollution stealing the stars from the night
sky, and ecosystems burning, collapsing, or being transformed for the concrete world. Later, the performers would go on to pour soil around the volunteers, wash each other’s hands in the soil as an act of care, and simply play, touch, and smell the soil until the projection goes black, and something goes terribly wrong as they scattered around humming nervously to stop this imbalance. Construction noises began growing louder and louder over the chaos as they tried to stop it, but finally, they were too late, and the performers collapsed into dead bodies around the volunteers as the dominant sounds of development play above and they sit in silence starring at the performers’ lifeless bodies. This is why we intentionally incorporated the story of the
land, here, and the Coast Salish People. “Solastalgia” was not only a tribute to Gaia as a whole
leaving us before our eyes, but deliberately as a tribute to the loss of place the Willow people
have been witnessing here on this land—and as students, today, continue to watch this
Business as Usual narrative unfold over the land as the University continues building the
concrete paradise referenced in our performance. We intentionally began marching like
mindless soldiers after we told the story of in between UW1 + UW2 and say how, “today, we
walk across the concrete paradise in the plaza,” to illustrate how everyone is just feeding this
mindless consumer system without questioning or speaking up for the rights of the world and
communities around us. We intentionally created the ending to be positive, so I brought in bits of an empowering song I wrote last Spring called “Rising Up” which was deliberately created with
emotion in the instruments that keeps rising up the scales and bending in emotive ways to
illustrate this long struggle for justice of those who have been moving for rights of the land and
indigenous people for centuries. It incorporates different instruments dancing around each
other to highlight the different roles we all play in this movement and community collaboration
and intersectional solidarity efforts. It also uses Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ voice which I believe
illustrates how intersection all of this is by saying how justice is about clean water, rights to
vote, “how much ladies get paid,” etc., and by saying, “sometimes, the most righteous thing to
do is shake the table,” followed by footage I brought from our own Seattle strikes/marches we
have organized where we were outside of KOMO 4 News saying “Tell the truth! Tell the Truth!”
to the media station to stop denying climate collapse and to cover the climate crisis—which
was followed by an 11-minute die-in. We thought adding this in could illustrate some sort of
call-to-action and brings in our own local community efforts for climate action.
An exciting turning point was when we realized what the ending could be together — we
wanted to end on some sort of positive note and show that there is still hope here, so we all got
very excited when we came up with the part of it rewinding all the destruction, bringing us back
into the forest, and then ending up on the UWB campus and we stood one by one in the studio
saying “we’re still here,” “we’re still here,”…. And then finally, to connect the class to our first
day of class together by chanting the quote, “never doubt that a small group of people can
change the world, in fact it is the only thing that ever has” five times – picking people up off the
floor and encouraging them to say it with us – deliberately saying it TO the people in the room
and not just out into the space as a separate performer.
If I could change something it would be how the ending went during the final
performance – the lights should have stayed on for us chanting the quote “never doubt that a
small group of people can change the world, in fact it is the only thing that ever has” five times
as we lift people up and try to get others to say it with us – after the fifth time, the lights would
have gone out as we stomped to leave it at a powerful ending, but the lights turned off early, so
we couldn’t really successfully interact with the audience in the way we wanted to for the
I also would have loved to see more group movements and choreographed movements
together during the story telling. I would have loved to explore more groups lifts, supporting
movements, trust-fall movements, mirroring movements, or intentional movements that
illustrated the story we were all listening to with our bodies. We maybe could have illustrated
ourselves, a group of people struggling to move forward – who get further, and get pushed
back, help each other up, get pushed back again, but don’t give up and come back more
powerful than before. I wish we would have had more time to do more group choreography!
To perform live felt like I could feel the agency running through my veins – felt like we
had the chance to create whatever we wanted. The performance felt like it all happened so
quickly – gone too fast. But I felt like we left it all out there in the studio together. We had done
all we could and it felt really good and safe to finally put it all out together!
I grew a lot by finding more value in my actions and less in my words all the time. By
learning how to talk less and to just do. Learning to trust my body over my mind by letting my
body lead me through my movements and really feeling things out instead of allowing my
thoughts to lead and hold me back. I could really begin exploring a space by feeling… with the
top of my head along the ground, the back of my feet in a corner, my thigh up a wall, my back
across the floor, and my hands exploring my own landscape of a body. I was able to really push
past any borders around my own movements I had that I didn’t even realize were there. I
realized when I first tried to release into continuous embodied expression and I kept getting
caught up in my head thinking that “I didn’t know what to do… I’m ‘not a dancer’” I realized
that was the biggest lie I could ever say to myself and I have been a dancer my whole life! The
only thing different now is that there are constructed boxes made up in my head of what I can
or can’t do, and can or can’t be…. If I can just let my body lead to do what she wants, then
surely, I am purely expressing the movements of my emotions, senses, and desires, and
following that alone allows me to enter a state of flow where I can just keep dancing – staying
fully present in the music, in my body, and in the space—entering a moment where I can bring
whatever stories I feel to life around me. I have found huge strength in coming back to my body
–giving her the attention she deserves in this abled, powerful, loving body. I have really found
how much it grounds and presences me to reconnect to my place in my body. Now I’m really
interested to work more on technique and intention with how my movements are
communicating stories to those around me.
One major thing I am taking away from this is: How can I bring more embodiment into
the environmental movement with our community efforts? How can embodiment show up
livelier and more intentionally at a rally, protest, or lobbying session? One of the biggest
challenges with our human-environment predicament is that there are so many of us walking
around with minds disconnected from bodies…. disconnected to the actions we do every day.
To our materials. What our clothes are made of, where they came from, how far our food
comes from, where they were grown, who grew them, how they grew them, and where our
waste goes after it leaves our fingertips… At least for those of us that are privileged enough not
to have to. If we can bring in more embodiment into the movement, not only could it give
people more empowerment for change, but it can mend that connection to place – to our place
in the family of things on the Earth, to our place/need in local community, and to our place in
our own bodies! We’ve been talking about what we need to do climate-action–wise for forever
now! How can we just do it? How can we radically live out this new, but ancient, story?
Many questions still linger with me… how can we attach people to this massive story of
slipping love, while also not letting them fall into despair? How can we show that we are still
here and that we need us and each other now more than ever? How can we inspire bold
community action, community involvement, community power to feel like we do have what we
need to change this and that it is possible and that we have known what we need to do for a
good long while now? How can we really plant and illustrate the feelings of power to the people
+ power to the land? How can we tell the stories of communities that do come together and
overcome? How can we evoke one’s interest in re-connecting to the natural world around
them? How can we really bring vision of the great transition to life – with renewables +
community solar, re-biodiversified cities, regenerative community agriculture, indigenous
sovereignty, environmental justice, and connection to place? Most importantly, how can we get
people to see and feel that what they do matters….

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