Enchanting harmonies rise in the darkness from the back of the sold-out theater. The sh-sh-shaking of frond skirts and clacking of shells build as the dancers proceed – first from the right, then from the left – enveloping the audience with their voices.
The room brightens as they burst on to the stage: a colorful delegation of islanders from the Pacific atolls of Kiribati, Tokelau and Tuvalu. They are here to tell their story in song and dance, as they have done for generations: uncanny polyphonic melodies, chants and yelps; delicate pantomimes, stomping, drumming and claps; beaming faces belying their sobering words…
Listen to my tiny voice, crying out for help
Hear our plea from Tuvalu, our low and small Pacific home
The Water is Rising project, along with the UCLA Center for Intercultural Performance, brings 36 dancers and musicians on a 14-city tour of North America, to draw attention to the real risks of global warming and rising sea levels on low-lying islands of the world. Performances and educational opportunities, “harness the power of performance art in an impassioned plea for global awareness and social change,” organizers say, “inspiring us all to be better stewards of our shared planet.”