March 15, 2024

Landscape in Motion project celebrates Calgary landscapes through dance and landscape architecture

Collaboration between School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape and School of Creative and Performing Arts explores landscapes through lens of human body
A woman dances in a field
Cindy Ansah, an undergraduate dance student, explores the intricacies of plant growth near the Ramsay Design Centre in Calgary. LIM research team

Two seemingly different worlds collide in Landscape in Motion (LIM). This innovative project is a unique blend of landscape architecture and site-specific dance, led by Dr. Enrica Dall'Ara, PhD, from the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape (SAPL), and Dr. Melanie Kloetzel, PhD, from the School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA). 

Combining landscape architecture and dance

Exploring the rich history and evolving landscapes in two of Calgary's oldest neighbourhoods, Inglewood and Ramsay, the project investigates “how the human body can experience, express, and communicate places and landscapes,” says Dall’Ara, associate dean of planning and landscape architecture. 

Adds Kloetzel, division lead for dance: “Both Enrica and I do work that focuses on investigating and celebrating place, but from very different disciplines. It was exciting for us to figure out how these disciplines could inform one another.”

Observing the neighbourhoods through the lens of both disciplines allowed the team to access a much broader understanding of the sites. By examining the historical, cultural and environment context of each area, the project delved deep into the collective memory of the communities, including the experiences of a wide range of living inhabitants of the site, as well as non-living materials that add to the design and character of the neighbourhoods.

The collaboration grants landscape architects like Dall’Ara the ability to sensitively focus on how the human body experiences and interacts with a place. This can help illuminate a site’s accessibility, show how people flow and move through a site, and highlight micro-scale landscape components that deeply impact the inhabitants of a place.

The project also enables site-specific performance experts to “creatively and imaginatively investigate a place so that we can start to dig up memories that might never have been in an official history,” says Kloetzel, who is also one of the performers on the project. “This effort is critical as we reconsider the biases of history and plan for a decolonizing future.”

The research team aimed to develop creative approaches for documenting and portraying the various experiences encountered throughout Inglewood and Ramsay. These creative approaches are collectively shared through the Landscape in Motion website that offers visitors a chance to see a variety of maps, charts, dance films and photographs that help depict the research team’s emerging methodology. 

See Landscape in Motion 

On March 20, Dall’Ara and Kloetzel will present the project’s output at the City Building Design Lab in downtown Calgary. The event will be an opportunity to witness the celebration of places and their heritage through the lens of dance and landscape architecture. Register now

Landscape in Motion (LIM) is based on research funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), which granted an Insight Development Grant in 2019.

The LIM team includes:

Research Assistants from School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape: Zoe Crandall, Pranshul Dangwal, Bushra Hashim, Emily Kaing, Thu Ngo, Gordon Skilling, Anna Toneguzzi.

Research Assistants from School of Creative and Performing Arts: Zoe Abrigo, Cindy Ansah, Stephanie Jurkova, Alyssa Maturino.

Community Creative Team and Consultants: Mary-Ellen Tyler (landscape ecologist), Jennifer Mahood (community consultant), Chantal Wall (cinematographer), Linnea Swan (cinematographer), Robin Tufts (environmental percussionist/community consultant).