This project is a new dance film by Ron Hagell, with choreography by Terrance Henderson. It is being made for the Jasper Project as a part of the “Marked by Water” project taking place for the commemoration of the first anniversary of the Columbia flood of October, 2015.
Both Hagell and Henderson have felt strongly that the artists of Columbia need to “make artwork” in response to this major event that brought upheaval to so many lives in our hometown. To that end both artists, experienced in dance and filmmaking, came together to devise this new work.
The artists were close to some of those whose homes were engulfed on the night of October 4, 2015 particularly along Gills Creek in the Rosewood section of the city. In the aftermath many had lost a lifetime’s worth of treasured possessions along with their homes but, thankfully, with the help of neighbors and strangers, few lives were lost.
Talking through the disaster’s lead-up and with a good deal of knowledge of the community since the flood, both felt that there has been a change in our community and that a comment about this could be the starting point for a new work.
If we think back to our state and town in the years and months leading up to this event it is clear that South Carolina has been in a socio-cultural slump for some time. There were many problems that came to a head prior to the flood. The Charleston shooting happened and this lead to the final chapter in the decades long struggle to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from the Statehouse grounds. While one negative incident lead to a positive one, the economic and political plight of many Blacks and other citizens of the state did not change. Old problems of inequality and racial division seemed as intractable as ever. The SC State Supreme Court ruling regarding basic education rights for all children showed us how serious the situation had become. But many still believed that, even with these news headlines, change would only come in the far and distant future - if at all.
Then the flood came.
Since the flood came so quickly and lingered for a while, those affected needed a great deal of assistance from across the community. In most areas, the destruction was so great that normal services could not cope. In these cases, many communities saw neighbors and strangers helping each other in a myriad of ways regardless of race or social standing. The flood brought down barriers and in their place we have felt a change that has lingered. It’s a ripple on the surface of our town, where history runs deeper than the three rivers. But it’s there and we hope it will lead to a new beginning and a bridge to change.
Our dance film speaks to this hopeful future but rests in the arms of our Southern traditional/spiritual music. As with most contemporary dance, every element of the work is symbolic. The historic photograph stands-in for much that is lost – washed away by the waters. But still our victim is helped to rise from the flood into a new life with the help of others.