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Boston Dance Theater launches SURGE Fellowship in East Boston, receives support from The Boston Foundation Live Arts Boston Grant.

This grant funds a paid creative residency for neighbors and stakeholders of East Boston to reflect on the impacts of climate change at the local level. Together, fellows will share stories, build on existing narratives of resilience to climate change, and envision a thriving future for the community through artistic presentation. Their work, in both movement and spoken word, will culminate in a performance in East Boston, alongside BDT’s performance of SURGE in 2022. Read the announcement article from WBUR.

Watch the SURGE East Boston Performance Premiere from July 30, 2022

SURGE 2022: Boston Dance Theater East Boston Performance

SURGE 2022: Boston Dance Theater East Boston Performance

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Virtual Launch



September 2 - November 14, 2020

In the fall of 2020 BDT launched the Sea Level Rise Project with a series of virtually curated events about the ocean, environmental activism, and the role that arts+science collaboration can play in creating a sustainable future. Please enjoy the archived recordings of these events below.

  • SURGE: Cooking Lesson
    SURGE: Cooking Lesson
    Wed, Oct 28
    Oct 28, 2020, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EDT
    BDT Zoom
    Oct 28, 2020, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EDT
    BDT Zoom
    2019 Chopped Champion, Fernanda Tapia returns again for Boston Dance Theater’s second to last SURGE virtual event on October 28, 2020.
  • SURGE+MASS RIVERS: Art in the Flow
    SURGE+MASS RIVERS: Art in the Flow
    Wed, Oct 14
    Oct 14, 2020, 7:00 PM – 7:30 PM EDT
    BDT Zoom
    Oct 14, 2020, 7:00 PM – 7:30 PM EDT
    BDT Zoom
    A Choreographer's Response to Sea Level Rise A conversation with Jessie Jeanne Stinnett about "Surge" Aired: October 14 2020 Co-presented with Massachusetts Rivers Alliance
  • SURGE: Science of Sea Level Rise
    SURGE: Science of Sea Level Rise
    Wed, Oct 14
    Oct 14, 2020, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EDT
    BDT Zoom
    Oct 14, 2020, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EDT
    BDT Zoom
    Christopher Piecuch (Scientist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) discusses the uncommonly known factors associated with sea level rise along the New England coastline.
  • SURGE: Dance Film Preview
    SURGE: Dance Film Preview
    Wed, Sep 30
    Sep 30, 2020, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EDT
    BDT Zoom
    Sep 30, 2020, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EDT
    BDT Zoom
    Boston Dance Theater presents "Surge", a dance film by videographer Ernesto Galan with choreography by Stinnett/BDT and scientific input by Pratt, shot on location at Jeremy Point in Wellfleet, Cape Cod. Costumes by Zane Kealey.
  • SURGE: Interview + Dance Demo
    SURGE: Interview + Dance Demo
    Wed, Sep 16
    Sep 16, 2020, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EDT
    BDT Zoom
    Sep 16, 2020, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EDT
    BDT Zoom
    Dr. Pratt and Jessie discuss their dance+science collaboration on the topic of sea level rise. The interview will be moderated by Hortense Gerardo and will include a livestream studio demonstration with the dancers of Boston Dance Theater.
  • SURGE: Panel Discussion
    SURGE: Panel Discussion
    Wed, Sep 02
    Sep 02, 2020, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EDT
    BDT Zoom
    Sep 02, 2020, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EDT
    BDT Zoom
    Join distinguished arts+science innovators from Boston and beyond for an afternoon as they tackle the big question, “Why should the arts work with science to achieve sustainability and what actions are currently being taken?”.
Project Overview

"The upheaval that has been caused by Covid-19 is also very much a harbinger of global warming. Because humans have fundamentally altered the physical workings of planet Earth, this is going to be a century of crises, many of them more dangerous than what we’re living through now."


Bill McKibben on Mark Lynas’s Our Final Warning: Six Degrees of Climate Emergency for the New York Review of Books.


In 2018 Jessie Jeanne Stinnett teamed up with ocean physicist Dr. Larry J. Pratt to envision a dance+science project centered around the latest scientific research on sea level rise and climate change in Boston Harbor. Initially supported by the Dancemakers Residency at Boston Center for the Arts and Boston Dance Alliance, Stinnett, Pratt, and the dancers of Boston Dance Theater (BDT) developed ‘Surge’ (working title), a performance work which enacts the salient factors of sea level rise. The work also draws attention to the devastating impacts that general mean sea-level rise has on coastal and island communities over the globe. BDT’s Sea Level Rise project aims to join a global effort of engaging artists and scientists in conversation, process, and performance in order to aid global transformation with regard to environmental sustainability.


In 2018, Stinnett participated in ‘Dancing With the Future’ a dance+science project with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and Harvard University’s Program of Evolutionary Dynamics. Stinnett considers ‘Dancing With the Future’ to be a pivotal moment in her dance-making career and was the inspiration for initiating collaboration on the topic of sea level rise with Dr. Pratt. 


Since 2018 she has spent a significant amount of time considering her own work as an artist and how that work can contribute to informing, bringing together, and building pathways for scientific consciousness within the communities where she lives and works. Stinnett asks: What can artists do to contribute to a global effort to create sustainable practices that yield cooperation with the future? What kind of impact does our dancing have on our environment, and ourselves? ‘Dancing With the Future’ revealed to her that scientists, dancers, and policymakers can successfully sit at the same table, tackle the same issues, and productively collaborate toward unearthing sustainable solutions. 


During the winter months of 2020 ‘Surge’ underwent its first phase of development at Boston Center for the Arts (supported by the Boston Dancemakers Residency). The initial research consisted of Dr. Pratt meeting with Stinnett and her team of dancer-collaborators over a period of 6 weeks to explain key scientific principles of ocean dynamics. 


Jacob’s Pillow (Beckett, MA) and Boston Center for the Arts (Boston South End) had committed to hosting the company for residencies and performances in the spring and summer months of 2020, but these engagements were canceled due to COVID-19 closures. BDT resumed its in-person development of 'Surge' with Dr. Pratt at The Vineyard Arts Project (Martha's Vineyard) and Movement Arts Gloucester MA (MAGMA) in the summer of 2021.

Also in 2021 Stinnett received The Boston Foundation's Live Arts Boston grant award to support the next phase of research and development for 'Surge', which includes a paid fellowship for BIPOC, East Boston-based artists to take place in the summer of 2022.

In July, 2022, the East Boston 'Surge' fellowship performed at Piers Park in East Boston, in support by The Trustees. Each of the three fellows showed a work, in addition to a new work from Boston Dance Theater, by Jessie Jeanne Stinnett, titled 'Surge'. Just a few months later, this program was brought to deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum (Lincoln, MA), to be performed in a new, outdoor space for new audiences. 

Towards the end of the summer of 2022, Boston Dance Theater brought an excerpt of 'Surge' to Jacob's Pillow's Henry J. Leir Outdoor Stage to be performed alongside other works in BDT's repertoire. 



Jacob's Pillow (Beckett, MA) presented Boston Dance Theater on their Henry J. Leir ourdoor stage, where an excerpt of 'Surge' was performed, in August 2022.


The Trustees of Reservations (East Boston, MA) helped foster community partnerships for the pilot SURGE Coastal Community Artist Fellowship and will present the Boston Dance Theater's premiere performance of SURGE in East Boston in July 2022.


The Boston Foundation (Boston, MA) provided support for the pilot SURGE Coastal Community Artist Fellowship to take place in East Boston during March-May 2022.

Vineyard Arts Project (Martha's Vineyard) provided a one week rehearsal residency on their campus during the summer of 2021.

MAGMA (Gloucester, MA) provided subsidized rehearsal space in their studio during the summer of 2021.

Massachusetts Rivers Alliance (Cambridge, MA) co-presented with BDT an artist talk with Stinnett about SURGE.


Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (Falmouth, MA) provides access to science researchers for interviews on the campus and virtually presents an excerpt of SURGE.


TEDxCambridge (Cambridge/Boston) presented Stinnett’s choreography for their 2019 salon at WBUR’s City Space, and hopes for a rescheduled event at Boston Opera House in 2021.


Brookline Ballet School (Newton) provides subsidized space rental for the creation of new works. 


Boston Center for the Arts (Boston South End) provides 6 weeks of rehearsal space, technical and production support for an in progress showing, admin and marketing support for public workshops, rehearsal fees for the dancers, a choreographer stipend for Stinnett.


Boston Dance Alliance (Boston South End) provides a 3 day retreat at Jacob’s Pillow (Berkshires) including coverage of transportation costs, housing, per diem, and rehearsal fees for the dancers, Stinnett, and Pratt. 

Hibernian Hall (Roxbury) hosts an immersive residency led by Stinnett for college-age dance students.



(Main Contact for the project:


Jessie Jeanne Stinnett is a Climate Reality Leader trained by former US Vice President Al Gore as well as a dancer, choreographer, and the founder and co-artistic director of Boston Dance Theater (BDT). Her current project, SURGE, is created in collaboration with ocean scientist Dr Larry J. Pratt of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the BIPOC dance artists of Boston Dance Theater. SURGE addresses the crisis of sea level rise, and the role that arts + science collaboration can play in creating a sustainable future.  


She received a BFA in Dance Performance from The Boston Conservatory and an MFA in Creative Practice: Dance Professional Pathway from Trinity Laban Conservatoire, in conjunction with Independent Dance/Siobhan Davies Dance. Most notably Jessie has performed for the Metropolitan Opera, Tate Britain (UK), Prometheus Dance, Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (Vienna), The Boston Baroque Opera, and Bard College’s SummerScape Festival. 


Her choreographic work has been described by Hannah Chanatry of WBUR as “conceptually driven performance that unpacks the complexities of being female, and pushes the academic boundaries of choreography” and has been sustained in part by grants from The Boston Foundation with support from The Barr Foundation, New England Foundation for the Arts, Assets4Artists at MASS MoCA, and Fidelity Charitable. 


Some of Jessie’s recent choreography commission credits include: Boston Ballet School, Dean College, Keene State University, Providence College, Endicott College, Goethe-Institut Boston, Emerald Necklace Conservancy, The Trustees of Reservations, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, and Emmanuel Music. She is the recipient of the 2020 Boston Dancemakers Residency grant award and was the 2020 Choreographer in Residence at Boston Center for the Arts and Boston Dance Alliance.




Dr. Lawrence J. Pratt is a senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He holds a B. S. and M. S. from the University of Wisconsin and a Ph.D. from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  


Pratt’s research interests include theory and modeling of ocean and marginal sea circulation and mixing, mesoscale and submesoscale instability and turbulence,  sea strait hydraulics, abyssal circulation in deep canyons, and the use of dynamical systems and chaos theory to understand mixing and stirring at various scales.


He has collaborated on a number of dance and ocean science projects and public workshops in Boston and New York with choreographers Riley Watts, Courtney Peix, Jody Sperling, Mariah Steele, Alissa Cardone and Jessie Jeanne Stinnett. His extended arts and science projects have been presented at the Boston Science Museum, New Bedford Art Museum, Keck Futures Foundation (Washington, DC), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Boston Arts Academy, often with support from the National Science Foundation.



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