Mapping it Out

By Paloma McGregor

There is something great emerging about connecting the way maps and the way dances are made. Maps are created from many layers of data (from physical qualities like streams, roads and buildings to demographics, health statistics and even perceptions). These data layers are gathered, manipulated and edited to create a map that represents the community – not in its totality but in the visioning of the map maker. Dances, similarly, are created by gathering movement material, manipulating that material and editing it to satisfy the choreographer’s vision. This is an important correlation for the work we are doing and for the beginnings of creating common understandings and languages for talking about one another’s work.

Mapping is going to be a foundation of our work. We have two maps of areas we have been working in. One is a physical map that focuses on the sewer systems in East Tremont. The other is the BRA’s map of the Bronx River. Between those two area is a transitional space for which we have no map. We have decided a major focus in our Water Walks research will be to create our own map – along with community participants – of the space between East Tremont and Bronx River.

We do not know yet what it means for a choreographer, scientist and environmental educator to make a map together. How exciting. We do know we will use GPS technology – in stages. One possible approach is: First, we could tell stories and do a movement-mapping game in a field at the top of the watershed in East Tremont. Then we could track our own walks in the area, as well as walks taken by participants, creating pathways as well as landmarks of stories, movement and other information. We could then use this data to create maps that connect East Tremont to the River, with interactive components that allow people on the walks – or a world away – to access various layers of information about the area.

Another discovery for me today is that Josue Garcia, Recreation Specialist at BRA, is from East Tremont. So we will engage him in this project as a collaborator. He said that he doesn’t know much about East Tremont, even though he grew up there. But his relationship with the Bronx River is very rich, after training with Rocking the Boat and now BRA. It would be rich to pair him with an older resident, one who possibly has a very different relationship to the River, and see what kinds of stories, movement and potentials emerge from them mapping the space between their experiences.

Another exchange we collaborators are interested in having is with a civil engineer who could help us understand the history of the sewer system, as well as someone from DEP who could talk to us about the history of the scrapped Green Infrastructure project. The history of the space below the surface of the streets will be an important layer of our work.

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