Cast members of THE TIPPING POINT

Frank Walsh, courtesy Corningworks

This New Dance Work Makes the Refugee Crises Hit Home

What would it take for you to leave home?

This is the question choreographer Beth Corning asks in THE TIPPING POINT in order to turn the global refugee crisis inward on the U.S. "It's a wake-up call to the numbing onslaught of changes in the world around us," she says. (Originally scheduled to premiere next week in Pittsburgh, the show has been postponed to September 16-27 due to COVID-19.)

Partnering with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, the multi-generational cast includes an international group of re-settled refugees.

Why a work about the global refugee crisis?

There is something deeply concerning about the world I feel that I am living in. I knew with this work I needed to get past the headlines, past the passivity I feel we have all succumbed to and the idea that this is all going to be okay. It's not. This is my personal scream to me and everyone else: What is it going to take to do something about this?

How did the collaboration with Doctors Without Borders come about?

After learning about their traveling exhibition FORCED FROM HOME, I contacted them and told them I was thinking about doing a production about the refugee crisis, but not have it be centrally about refugees from elsewhere such as Syria or Mexico, but be about us in the United States. They were really receptive and made all the materials from FORCED FROM HOME available to me. On many levels, they helped brainstorm this idea I had and were very respectful of me as an artist.

What else do you incorporate into the work?

I use interviews with re-settled refuges who have really gone through this. My biggest question is, What was the tipping point, the last straw that said you had to leave? The answer was not one I wanted to hear.

You chose to have The Tipping Point immersively engage audiences. Why?

I didn't want audiences to just sit in a chair watch me do stuff. The work is half immersive and half performative. It allows very small-sized audiences of 20 at a time to move from space to space within an old church and experience my concerns about the world.

How do you hope it affects audiences?

This is a very personal work. I don't look at my work as being political but for this one you bet your f-ing ass it's political! I want people to walk out feeling moved and empowered with a new insight that gets them to maybe do something.

This story has been updated to reflect a new premiere date.

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For the last five years the dance world, and specifically the ballet world, has been enrolled in the mission to understand and implement diversity, equity and inclusion into the field at all levels. A great deal of funding has been allocated towards efforts of education and training, consultants have been hired, conferences and seminars attended.

I myself am a part of a three-year initiative, The Equity Project, which is a learning cohort of 21 ballet companies to increase the presence of Blacks in ballet. And in many ways there has been progress made. With raised awareness, core values and mission statements have been amended to reflect these aspirations; recruitment has made pipelines browner; there are more brown dancers on stages. We are not there yet, but certainly there has been progress.