Dance and Plants Summer Camp synthesizes the teachings of ecology, history, botany, and craft into a colorful and symbolic dance. In collaboration with artists, story tellers, farmers, scientists, and many community advocates we  host a tuition-free, extensive natural dyes and dance workshop for children who often lack access to natural outdoor play areas. Through an exploratory contact with traditional textile crafts, combined with the visually mesmerizing story-telling power of dance, we can help rekindle a disappearing love of nature, our land and primary resource for well being.

We ran our 2021 pilot project on the beautiful, inclusive, and productive grounds of Osamequin Farm, a farming cooperative in Seekonk, Massachusetts. We also worked on the grounds of nearby Moor Food Farm. For two full weeks we conducted a variety of workshops with a breadth of experts to generate the most comprehensive view of the ecosystems we occupy and our place within them. 

Natural Dye Projects

Our natural dyes experiments were a means of seeing some of the use and beauty a plant can share, an ancient practice we no longer experience in our modern life. When you extract color from a plant you are working with its soul, when you infuse a garment with natural dyes you are bringing the spirit of that plant close to your skin. Natural dye experiments provide another lens through which to view our rich and endlessly diverse relationship with the plant world.

The focus of our program this year was the vibrant and resilient marigold flower, a plant of many spiritual associations to the world after life in ancient central American cultures, where it originated. We made sure to discuss this part of the plant's human history, as well as its nutritious value to our pollinator friends. The girls themselves chose to call their dance team “The Marigolds” to evoke the bright energy and power of this flower, which we used to dye the fabric for our dance skirts. We expressed thoughts of gratitude, both to the marigold, to the place, and to each others company, as we prepared our magic dye baths for our dance costumes. 

In addition to mindfulness and cultural knowledge, our natural dye experiments included lessons in chemistry. We learned how changing the alkalinity or acidity of the dye can shift its color, or how interaction with minerals can effect the outcome. One day we prepared a meal for lunch, and used our food waste, onion skins and avocado pits and skins, to make color tests! Working this way also afforded us the opportunity to discuss composting, how soil is made and how the biomass cycle works, and how we can be stewards of this balance as we consume natural resources. 


From the beginning of time we have honored and shared our identities, and expressed and unleashed our souls - through Dance. It is an important means of celebration and spreading joy. While addressing environmental issues can be daunting we believe that taking the time to celebrate what nature gives us, and what we can accomplish, is a critical means to balance otherwise potentially overwhelming conversations.

Latin dancer and instructor Kiara Febles (Keke) worked with the girls in the afternoons to teach them a salsa dance choreography that reference the beauty of flowers blooming.

In her words “dance has a wonderful impact on the student’s self esteem and their ability to relate to one another. When kids are in dance practice they forget about their differences and their insecurities, they become each other’s greatest support network and creative collaborators. Dance practice also helps to build self discipline, which is important in many aspects of their lives. Through an understanding of steps, music, rhythm, and history the students also connect to cultural knowledge”

Connecting with the Farm 

Under the guidance of Sarah Turkus, farm director, we learned about the plants and animals on the farm. We learned about various culinary herbs and their medicinal use, their scent and their flavor. We spent time connecting with all the farm animals, and learning how to become friends with the bees feasting on the wild and cultivated flowers. We held moments of quiet to listen to the crickets in the grasses and the rushing breeze through the surrounding forest. We practiced maintaining calm bodies and open minds in a world that we share with other living beings. 

Indigenous Teachings 

We spent time listening to the stories and learning about the traditions of the Pokanoket Tribe, the original settlers of the land Osamequin Farm is on. We learned about the three sisters gardening system, which relies on the mutually beneficial interactions between corn, beans, and squash to thrive, like a solid sisterhood. Dancing Star, of the Pokanoket Tribe, relayed to us important messages of gratitude for the rain, the sun, and soil, and all the various animals. She brought for us corn husks to make our own corn husk dolls and performed the traditional blanket dance. Understanding the history of our land and themes of reciprocity and gratitude are key components of the program.

Learning to Look Closer

One day we were joined by Hope Leeson, an artist and botanist, and mushroom aficionado Garrett Crosby on a hike in the surrounding woods. We were able to look at our world in more detail, to appreciate all the various ways in which our plants and fungi evolve and relate with one another, ourselves, and other species. We, again, explored some edible plants and berries, and others that we could use for natural dyes as well. For some of our students this was their first time in the forest! A few found themselves in their element as they forgot about the heat and the buzzing of the pesky bugs and came upon moment of wonder in the temporal elements of the forest. 

A Day at the Sewing Studio

We were warmly welcomed in the lovely West Side Sewing Studio, where sewing teacher Patti Barnatt showed the girls some of the basics of garment construction, and how to use a sewing machine! The girls were absolutely riveted to the process, they showed so much focus and enthusiasm for a highly detail oriented task! It was proof that kids are naturally drawn to the act of creation and that learning how to make your own clothes is both empowering and stimulating for the growing mind. Learn how to sew!  

Nature in the City

We spent a morning exploring several landscape architecture projects in Providence, with designer and artist Adam E. Anderson, founder of Design Under Sky. He gave us a private tour of his renowned 10,000 Suns land-art project, were we were once again reminded of the importance of creating and protecting habitats for other species, and artful places that bring us a sense of joy and wonder. Adam told us of how the project has attracted bugs, and birds, even our local city hawks. 

We then walked down to his community built Living Edge project, where we discussed the ability of naturally planted edges to absorb storm surges, while also providing a shady and peaceful respite for humans, and (yes you guessed it) other species. There we also witnessed a thriving combination of meadow and forest landscape in an urban environment.   

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