Christina Catanese is an environmental scientist, artist, dancer/choreographer, educator, and arts administrator in Philadelphia. As the Director of Environmental Art at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, Christina oversees all aspects of creating and implementing an environmental art exhibition program in gallery spaces and on the nature center’s 340 acres of forests and fields. Christina has a Masters in Applied Geosciences from the University of Pennsylvania, complementing her BA at Penn in Environmental Studies and Political Science. In her choreographic practice, Christina is currently exploring the ability of dance to take ecological processes that happen over an incredibly long time scale and distill them down to a human scale moment, making them easier to comprehend. She also knits, teaches yoga, and enjoys photographing ecology at varying scales while hiking.
In an ongoing project series, I am exploring physical spaces around water, unpacking ideas around the interface of human boundaries and infrastructure with the natural boundaries and dynamic equilibrium that water seeks. Rivers and streams are constantly changing course, redistributing energy and carving new paths. In a parallel way, dance movement pathways are also not fixed, with some slight variations every time a choreographic phrase is performed. Just as maps of abandoned channels and meandering paths can be an artistic visual story of the ever-changing river, I seek to capture the movement of human bodies along with the dynamism of water bodies. I make dance drawings, with movement pathways recorded on a medium such as canvas or paper on the floor in paint, graphite, or charcoal. I create choreographic works using stream dynamics and river morphology as a point of departure, then perform them, creating the drawing as an artifact of the dance.
Being at SFAI gave me the space to explore the full range of my creative practice, across the disciplines of hydrology, choreography, visual art, and teaching – I felt accepted and celebrated for pursuing work that spans boundaries, and it was wonderful to connect with other artists exploring similar ideas whose work also didn’t fit neatly into one categorization. During my residency, I spent a lot of time outdoors, getting to know the rivers and landscapes of Northern New Mexico, in order to understand the full range of their complexities. I used the knowledge I gathered as a point of departure for developing new choreography. I see this work as still in its early stages; in one month’s time, I created and gathered a great deal of source material and have a framework for a longer dance work that incorporates additional dancers. I also experimented with new materials and methodologies in my body of work that explores the possibilities of capturing the pathways of a dance in a visual art form. I produced a number of large dance drawings that capture the traces of my dancing body performing the choreography that I was developing about the watershed. Multiple four foot square studies with different materials and methods yielded interesting and diverse results; besides the differences in how the different materials behaved, it was interesting to see how different an art work the same choreography could produce. Having the space to try out ideas at SFAI was invaluable. At the end of the residency at SFAI140, I performed the choreography I had developed so far and created a dance drawing live during the process. I was very grateful to share my work in this public forum through this presentation and the open studios after the event. The last component of my resume was that I had the chance to guest teach at Moving Arts Espanola with their afterschool dance program – I was grateful to have been able to have this partnership as a result of my association with SFAI.