From left to right, Emma Bartolomucci, Levi Stepp, and Audrianna Del Campo stand in formation during a school tour. (Emma Bartolomucci/The Fourth R)
A local dance group is taking an innovative approach to climate education that’s helping students in Brockton Village turn their eco-anxiety into action.
Emma Bartolomucci, a choreographer and climate activist, launched The Fourth R: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Revolutionize, a dance performance about climate action, in 2020.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bartolomucci became interested in climate science, so she decided to combine this knowledge with her passion for dance. It resulted in a theatre production that shows how our actions as consumers can impact the planet.
“We’re so privileged here in North America. We have so much that to not to be ignorant about this issue, it’s unacceptable,” explained Bartolomucci. “So, I was using any resources I could. I’m a skilled dancer. How can I incorporate this urgency into my dance? How can I incorporate the message of climate change in my dance and bring that to audiences to evoke change?”
Bartolomucci and her cast have performed across Canada to more than 5,000 students since the Fourth R’s launch.
“If they don’t learn it at school; if they’re not learning the importance of sustainability at school; unless they have parents that are really into it, it’s going to get lost. And we just cannot raise another generation that’s unaware,” explained Bartolomucci.
The Fourth R has played to students at four Toronto schools so far.
This past March, they made their way to Saint-Frère-André Catholic Secondary School in the downtown west-end neighbourhood of Brockton Village. Many of the students here speak English as a second language but say the Fourth R’s message still resonated.
“Given that it was a dance performance, I think it just really spoke more to a lot of us, especially given our teenage age. It’s more interesting to see something that’s just in an art form instead of just watching someone talk,” said Devlynne Dunn, a Grade 10 student at Saint-Frère-André.
Rommel Bellosillo, a mobilization campaigner at Greenpeace who has seen the Fourth R, said that this form of activism is effective because it focuses less on fear-mongering and more on taking action.
“This is reaching out to a different audience that we probably never thought of, like the younger generations,” said Bellosillo. “And I think people who are also into arts and also find creative activism and doing the kind of activism through different art forms, I’ve noticed that it has somehow a positive response from the audience.”
Drama teacher Noemi Parenteau-Comfort agrees. Unlike other climate workshops that had been held at the school, she said the Fourth R’s contemporary dance style grabbed students’ attention.
Some 12th graders were intrigued by the jobs they could have in the field of climate advocacy.
“With what teaching is, there’s not always enough time to integrate these ideas, these notions, these concepts within all the other stuff that they have to learn.
So, kind of through an interesting lens of arts, how about we bring that conversation to the kids as an audience member and also as a participating in a conversation. Because it’s not just the dance part, it’s also a conversation afterwards,” said Parenteau-Comfort
After preforming at the Toronto Fringe Festival last month, the Fourth R is now at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival from August 11 to 21.