Pacific Islanders Headed to MCLA to Showcase Environmental Plight During MCLA Presents! Performance


NORTH ADAMS, MASS. - Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' (MCLA) performing arts series, MCLA Presents!, will showcase the plight of the Pacific Islands - where sea levels are rising on the coral atolls of Kiribati, Tokelau and Tuvalu as a result of global warming - on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 7:30 p.m. 

Co-presented with the MCLA Environmental Studies Department, "Water is Rising: Music and Dance amid Climate Change" will take place in the MCLA Church Street Center auditorium.

In addition, MCLA will hold a global warming panel discussion about sustainability on campus on Monday, Nov. 14, from 5:30-6:30 p.m. in Murdock Hall room 208, to be attended by performers from the "Water is Rising" performance.

For the MCLA Presents! event, 36 performers will express their connection to their ancestral past through multi-part harmonies, poetry and movement, inspiring the audience to be better stewards of our shared planet, said Jonathan Secor, director of special programs at MCLA.

For hundreds of years, the oral histories, spiritual teachings and social values of Kiribati, Tokelau and Tuvalu were danced and sung instead of being written in books. Even today, virtually everyone on the islands sings and dances. Their music and dance is elegant, sensual, delicate and detailed - as well as strong and forceful, according to Secor.

The groups prepared a program of new songs and dances that express their deep connections to nature and their ancestral past; their art will convey their feelings about global warming and the desire that the world not overlook them.

According to Judy Mitoma, who organized the performers and director of the UCLA Center for Intercultural Performance, the premiere of "Water is Rising" at UCLA was a tremendous success. The chance to see this performance is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that must not be missed, she said.

"[They were given] standing ovations even before the show was finished," Mitoma said. "New songs and dances were created, rehearsed and translated - many by the elders of the village. I was so pleased by their hard work and the quality of their pieces."

The performers bring with them costumes hand-woven by the village women, each one taking hours to treat and weave pandana palms and coconut fiber. 

The panel discussion, which is free and open to the public, also will include representatives from the College's Sustainability Committee, the Environuts student club, Aramark dining services, and others involved with sustainability at MCLA will discuss how the campus is addressing global warming and working to lower the institutional carbon footprint.

Kiribati, Tokelau and Tuvalu are the smallest countries in the world, with populations of 100,000, 1,500 and 12,000, respectively, and elevations of only two to three meters above sea level. As performers from these islands tour the U.S. for the first time, climate change provides the frame with which these artists share stories of atoll life as the relocation of their entire population looms.

"'Water is Rising' harnesses the power of performance art in an impassioned plea for global awareness and social change," Secor said.

"Water is Rising" is a project of UCLA Center for Intercultural Performance in collaboration with the Foundation for World Arts and the Earthways Foundation. For more information, go to .

Tickets to "Water is Rising" are $10 for general admission. Tickets for MCLA alumni are $8, $5 for staff and faculty, and members and students are free. They may be reserved by calling MCLA Presents! at (413) 662-5204. For more information, (413) 664-8718, or go to presents

MCLA Presents! is a program of MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC), a collaborative project with Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) and the City of North Adams. The BCRC provides professional development training, resources and support to the artists, art managers and creative workers of Berkshire County. Through its multiple programs and presentations, BCRC brings the best of performance and art to the Berkshires and showcases the best of the Berkshires to the world.