Dancing On a Tall Ship’s Rigging? Why Art & Science Should Mix, and Why AltaSea Should Be Part of It

By Jenny Krusoe

AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles is a partner in an upcoming event that likely may puzzle some: members of the Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre will join the LA Opera aboard the tall ships of the Los Angeles Maritime Institute (LAMI) to create an immersive art experience offshore from a century-old dock.

The one-time performance of “Beyond the Waterfront” is set for 8 p.m. June 24 offshore from the port’s oldest wharf, City Dock No. 1. This piece, directed and produced by the Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre, tells a dance opera story that pays homage to Leonard Bernstein while hearkening back to one of our oldest tales, that of sirens and sailors and the sea. It’s a multi-sensory work that tackles themes of collaboration, sustainability and the influence of humanity on the environment.

Photo courtesy of Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre

Behind the tall ships, replicas of a long-ago maritime era, will be the port’s many giant cargo vessels, each stacked with hundreds of shipping containers that now are crucial to world commerce. It’s a juxtaposition that connects past and present, evoking everything from “Two Years Before the Mast” to “On the Waterfront” to Laurie Anderson’s retelling of “Moby-Dick.”

Perhaps the puzzlement of some is understandable. After all, what does dance have to do with tall ships, or for that matter, with the AltaSea mission to support creation of a 35-acre research, education and business incubation center in the heart of one of the world’s busiest ports?

But creativity manifests in a thousand different ways. The eureka moments that inspire a researcher are fundamentally no different than the creative impulses that shape an artist. More importantly, creative people want to be near, and inspired by, other creative people.

Part of AltaSea’s mission is to build a new base for jobs and education in San Pedro even as the Port of Los Angeles evolves to a more automated and containerized future. The ocean at our doorstep has been a crucial part of the economy of San Pedro and greater Los Angeles for more than 150 years.

Now, our oceans face unprecedented challenges, which may affect all of us if we can’t find sustainable ways to protect, support and develop them. Our vision of a campus for research, STEM-related education and sustainable business development also depends on creating a sustainable ecosystem for living and working in the San Pedro area.

That means AltaSea supports affordable housing, good schools and strong neighborhoods. It means AltaSea supports available, attractive and forward-thinking facilities for our researchers, educators and entrepreneurs.

And it means that we need to help create and support a thriving community of creative minds, from a range of disciplines from science to art, knowing that like attracts like.

Photo courtesy of Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre

So, supporting dancers in the rigging of tall ships is part of a grander vision for transporting San Pedro into the future, far from the era when those tall ships were first imagined. It’s about mixing art and science, research and business. Like that rigging in the LAMI tall ships, it all ties together.  

I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank the other collaborators of this unique Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre’s project, including LA Opera, Los Angeles Maritime Institute, San Pedro Historic Art District, Boys & Girls Club of the Los Angeles Harbor, and the office of Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Buscaino.

For more information about the event, and to purchase tickets, call 213-536-5820 or go to www.heididuckler.org/beyond-the-waterfront.

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