For more than 27 years, Sudbury’s earthdancers have been contributing to our community and to the world beyond. Over the years, they have received several awards and wide recognition for their work toward creating a sustainable future.
“Earthdancers exemplifies true community spirit and leadership by training youth to excel in the performing arts and doing so in such a way as to instill a generous heart.” says Dr. Stephen Monet, manager of the City of Greater Sudbury’s Environmental Planning Initiatives.
Founded in 1989 by Heidi Strauss, Sunny Dixon, and Stephanie Thompson, earthdancers saw an opportunity to use dance to communicate important messages about environmental causes. The group has raised more than $150,000 for local, national, and international organizations through performances of modern dance.
Over the years, earthdancers have supported Friends of the Earth (Canada), the Junction Creek Stewardship Committee, VETAC (Sudbury’s re-greening committee), Wild at Heart, the Trans Canada Trail, Roots and Shoots, the Earth Day Committee of Sudbury, Light up the World, Friends of the Roxborough Greenbelt, and the World Wildlife Fund.
Earthdancers is a youth-run organization. Working under the guidance of their artistic director, Denise Vitali, the group is made up of students ages 8 to 18. Besides learning choreography, the older students are responsible for producing the annual benefit performance. They work together to oversee all aspects of the show, such as sponsorships, guest performers, publicity, etc.
“I have continually been amazed at the leadership of earthdancers, their activities and initiatives. Recent events have emphasized their importance in the community and their contribution to environmental advocacy through the arts,” says Strauss, earthdancers’ co-founder.
Besides the benefit performance, earthdancers maintain a strong presence in the community. They have performed in churches, on street corners, at schools and at festivals. Currently, they participate in the Adopt-a-Road program by doing an annual spring and fall cleanup along their adopted road of Pine St. Among their many guest performances, they were excited to be part of the opening of the McEwen School of Architecture, they have been frequent guests at Sudbury’s Earth Day Festival, and they were honoured to perform at the Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts.
Grade 12 student Emma Bisaillon is the current production co-ordinator for the not-for-profit organization.
“When I was seven years old I joined earthdancers, not quite knowing their impact on the environment or their future impact on my life. Ten years later, I understand the impact earthdancers has made, and I have great hopes that it will continue in the future. I see the younger generations coming up and they’re so passionate about what we’re doing. I see earthdancers being able to make an even bigger difference.”
The company includes junior, intermediate, and senior dancers. As they do every year, earthdancers have been dedicating their time in rehearsing for the upcoming production featuring original works of modern dance. They are joined by a dedicated group of alumni who return to dance with and choreograph for the company.
“Like many who have worked with the company or have seen their performances, I have come back again and again to support their ongoing efforts. I make my annual pilgrimage in the spring, and have over the years performed, choreographed, brought guests, hosted the show, and fetched coffee, but I am mostly remembered as the lady who directs the pre-show warmup,” says Julye Huggins, earthdancers alumna.
The current season of earthdancers will be taking place from April 26 to 28 at Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario.
“I invite the Sudbury community to come join earthdancers at our upcoming annual performance. We hope to inspire you with our thought-provoking choreography,” says Bisaillon.
The impact of the earthdancers is possibly best summed up in the words of earthdancers` honorary chairperson, Franco Mariotti, retired staff scientist from Science North: “Earthdancers’ annual gala is not to be missed. These young dancers are creative, impressive and absolutely entertaining! They devote their passion for dance to raise money for the natural world. They are a must see!