Jackson Xia

Jackson Xia is an American-Born-Chinese freestyle dancer who uses dance to effectively communicate difficult conversations and to help climate activists cope with eco-anxiety.

1. What about the ocean and climate speaks to you as an artist?

The ocean has so many healing qualities! Physically, mentally, and spiritually! How absurd that it has become our centralized dumping ground for waste and pollution. Climate and sustainability as fields are the ultimate tests of integrating different kinds of knowledge to resolve the most complex intersecting systemic issues. Climate affects every single one of us on this planet and theoretically can unite all of us to ensure the survival of our species on our one true home.

2. Where did the initial inspiration for your climate anxiety workshops come from? What have you learned in leading them?

A fellow bboy, Alex Milewski, introduced me to the concept of using contemporary dance to cope and express emotions that can often to difficult to deal with internally. After seeing the emotional toll that activism was having on my fellow climate activist friends from the Sunrise Movement, I introduced them to my process of coping with climate anxiety through dance. They all found it surprisingly helpful, which tells me that they weren’t expecting it to be as impactful as it was. When I started learning Krump (a popularized style of street dance), it clicked for me that so many street cultures and dances were born specifically to help with the mental wellbeing of people living through systemic, societal collapse—much like with eco-anxiety—so it made sense for me to bring these “proven” successful processes to the climate space.

3. What is your view on the role of art and dance in culture and activism?

As artists, we often question whether what we’re doing actually makes a difference—just like in activism. The changes we make are not always visible, but as many poets point out, change happens gradually, then suddenly, such as with the 3.5% rule in activism (which posits that no government can stand up to that share of the population mobilising against it). What keeps us going in those times of doubt and frustration is art.

Dance is ephemeral – it teaches us to appreciate the here and now. Dance recalls the mind-body connection—it heals a connection with ourselves that we’ve been conditioned to ignore. We have a physical body that our “hustle culture” encourages us to ignore and we have a larger, planetary body that our capitalist values tell us it’s okay to destroy. Healed people heal people. Finding that connection for ourselves again will inevitably influence others with our presence.

4. What is the one takeaway message you would like audiences to leave with after viewing your work?

I believe that the most meaningful thing that we can achieve is not in what we do but in who we are. How you hold space, how you process, how you respond. Don’t just “do” a powerful thing —”be” a powerful thing.

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