Dirty dancing: Floating company twirls on the Gowanus canal

Plastic people: Members of the Artichoke Dance Company will dress in shopping bags to make a statement about pollution and the importance of clean water, for a show on the Gowanus Canal on June 24.
Jeremy Amar

They’ll try to stay above water!

A group of dancers will shimmy and shake while standing atop canoes floating on the toxic Gowanus Canal on June 24. The performance, part of international Global Water Dances day, is designed to raise awareness of the importance of clean water, but the dancers hope to make their point without dipping so much as a toe in the notoriously filthy waterway, said the director of the Artichoke Dance Company.

“The plan is to not capsize — but we’ve been rehearsing in the canoe so people understand stability,” said Lynn Neuman, who lives just a few blocks away from Brooklyn’s Nautical Purgatory.

The five boat-based performers will be joined by more dancers standing on the shore, all of them wearing outfits made out of twisted, braided, and otherwise shaped plastic bags. The plastic apparel demonstrates how harmful the bags can be to the environment and to wildlife, said Neuman.

“It’s kind of a political statement — we have all these bags, we don’t need them, they shouldn’t be in our waste stream,” she said. “The whole project is to raise awareness about what’s going on. Real estate developers are touting this as waterfront living, but really it’s a toxic zone, a public living hazard.”

Students from nearby schools PS 32 and PS 372 will also perform, with their own choreography that flows with the movement of water.

Anyone who wants to join the performers — dancing safely on the shore, to be clear — can learn the flowing choreography at several workshops held in the weeks before the show, and also learn to make an outfit from shopping bags. All together, the different dancers will fill the Gowanus with movement, said Neuman.

“All along that promenade, there will be people on land and on water,” she said.

Before the show, at 1 pm, members of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy will offer some brave souls walking tours of the infested canal. The afternoon event will also feature interactive displays and informational tables where people can learn how to improve their waterways, said Neuman.

“I hope that people walk away with the desire to do something, like ‘Oh I’m going to bring my own bag to the grocery store,” she said. “There are three actionable items you can do today — bring your own bag, reduce water usage when it rains, and drink tap water.”

Global Water Dances at the Gowanus Canal (Promenade at Whole Foods, Third Street between Third Avenue and Bond Street in Gowanus, www.artichokedance.org). June 24 at 2 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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