Cedar Tree Institute is ‘Dancing for the Earth’

Carrie Biolo plays the “icelophone” as part of a musical and dance performance she and Maria Formolo put on during the 2016 Glacier Glide, a winter art show held annually at Presque Isle in Marquette. The two will make a similar performance Thursday as part of their “Dancing for the Earth” project. The event, to be held near the Presque Isle pavilion, is presented by the Cedar Tree Institute and will celebrate the work nonprofits to do to protect the environment. (Photo by Selena Hautamaki, huelessflower.com)

MARQUETTE — Celebrating nature and the environmental work performed by nonprofits is the focus of an event Thursday, set at one of Marquette’s most revered and cherished natural settings, Presque Isle Park.

“Dancing for the Earth,” organized by Maria Formolo and Carrie Biolo, is a musical and dance performance series that features different nonprofit organizations and their efforts to protect and celebrate the environment.

The Cedar Tree Institute — a nonprofit that provides services and initiates projects in the areas of mental health, religion and the environment — will present the Dancing for the Earth event, set for 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday, the day of the first full moon of the year, organizers said.

“Often overlooked and underfunded, nonprofit efforts to preserve and protect the environment of the U.P. represent a unique and prophetic contribution to making our landscape and her peoples a great place to call home,” Jon Magnuson, executive director of the Cedar Tree Institute, said in an email.

The event, which Magnuson described as an “evening of magic like nothing you have ever witnessed,” will highlight the institute’s ongoing environmental projects with faith communities and Native American tribes.

Hot chocolate and snacks will be provided at the Presque Isle Pavilion, along with music from singer and composer Jerry Mills, which will be followed by Formolo and Biolo’s outdoor musical dance performance nearby.

The event is free, but donations are welcome.

Formolo said she and Biolo have collaborated for many years, and last year joined together for a 100-day project they called “Running Towards the Light,” during which they committed to playing music and dancing in natural settings — regardless of weather conditions.

“One of the most exciting ones was (with) about a 40-mile per hour wind, and I had an umbrella by the lake. It was magnificent and it was … very spiritual for us,” said Formolo, who teaches dance at Northern Michigan University.

Some may recall their three-hour show at the 2016 Glacier Glide, an annual winter art show held by the Lake Superior Art Association, when the pair took third place. At that competition, Biolo played gongs hanging from trees and the “icelophone,” a musical instrument she made from blocks of ice using the same concept as a xylophone.

“Everything makes music, everything makes sound,” Biolo said. “Like the ice … I have some bars picked out that I’ve been tuning that I think have good resonance — and Thursday looks like it will be cold.”

Biolo, who described herself as a “classically trained percussionist,” said she first made the icelophone last year.

“It was after so many days of being cold and … I love playing on ice when I’m out in the woods, so I thought, ‘Oh, I should make an instrument out of ice,'” she said. “When it’s 5 degrees you can freeze a big chunk of ice in six hours.”

Formolo, who danced professionally and was an artistic director for 33 years in Canada, said the two performed earlier this winter in a snowstorm as part of the series, with that event highlighting Save the Wild U.P.’s efforts. She expects Thursday’s performance to be about 30 minutes.

“There’s something different about putting the art, you know — the music and the movement — with nature because you are dancing with the trees, with the wind,” Formolo said. “It’s very different than a theater performance. For me, it’s where the arts always originated from — spirituality and the natural environment. So it’s interesting, as we learn more about our planet, we see how integrated we all are, how interdependent we are.”

Ryan Jarvi can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 270. His email address is rjarvi@miningjournal.net.