Hike My Hike, Dance My Dance

I first heard about the Pacific Crest Trail several years ago when I was working on the Youth Conservation Corps at Crater Lake National Park (this was also my first trail crew job).

One day our assignment was to work on the PCT. This had no significance to me, the task was the same as on every trail we worked on: ‘this is where you’re going today, take these tools’. It was just another day at work, until we started up the trail and my crew lead, Jen, got an excited look in her eye.

Jen was long term planning her own hike of the trail, hopefully within the next five years. She was happy to share with our youth crew all about the trail in one of our YCC program education sessions.

I was entranced.

You could travel by foot from Mexico to Canada? There are “long trails”? I had no idea such things existed.

Experience the desert in Southern California, climb through the High Sierras in Central California, take an option to summit Mt. Whitney, enter the Siskiyous in Northern California, travel along the Cascades in Oregon, and walk through the glacier formed North Cascades in Washington. All in one go?

I decided right then – 16, working my first outdoor job, mid-way through a hot July work day, sitting at a picnic table glad for the respite from chopping wood, maps and brochures of the PCT spread out before me – that one day I too would hike that trail.

Here I am in 2012 getting ready to do just that.

All 2,650 miles or so.

I am a Pacific Northwest girl. This trail is home to me.

I spent 2 seasons on the YCC crew maintaining the Crater Lake section of the trail, and then 3 seasons in the Glacier Peak Wilderness working for the Forest Service maintaining the section of the PCT from Suiattle Pass to High Bridge.

My love for wilderness pursuits, and working as an outdoor professional has been fostered, in part, around this trail.

During those YCC seasons that began my outdoor career, I was also refining my skills as a dancer. I would go straight from work into town for dance lessons or rehearsals for a musical, sometimes stopping by my house on the way to rinse off the trail dust.

From Southeast Oregon, I moved to Washington, where I transformed from being a dancer, into an artist. On the off-season from my studies at Cornish College, I discovered the wilderness surrounding Lake Chelan, which became my new summer home.

Over the years, I have devoted my time between working towards a BFA in dance, a semester with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in New Zealand, training outside of school in a multitude of dance related activities, and trail crew seasons in the North Cascades. My pursuit of dance and the outdoors have developed simultaneously, and turned into my careers.

When I had had enough of life in the city, the wilderness was my refuge, and would fuel my creative drive. Like many of the early modern dancers, who wanted freedom from society’s perception of dance, and who experimented with the connection between nature and art, I found freedom of expression being in the outdoors. I would return to Seattle with new energy for dance, ready to work on new choreographic ideas inspired by my time in the wilderness.

Examples of this can be seen in my senior thesis piece which was inspired by my time in New Zealand. My work connected the point of inspiration in the NZ backcountry with my dance through a series of photos I took during my NOLS semester that provide the backdrop to the piece.

In another foray into wilderness and dancing, upon returning from a Wilderness First Responder course, I choreographed a parody of everything not to do in the wilderness with a patient. I took this choreography outside and filmed the piece in a local park.

Yet something has always been missing for me in the separation of these pursuits. Going into the forest for a season of backpacking and work, meant an off-season for dance. When the cold weather came, I was back in the urban environment and the studio, immersing myself in classes and rehearsals, leaving my outdoor pursuits to the occasional weekend.

Why couldn’t they both happen in the same time and space?

And then the idea came for Wilderness Dancing. Combining all my skills as an outdoor professional, choreographer and dancer, with the assistance of a camera, I could join the two together. I could dance at my point of inspiration.

The idea behind wilderness dancing is that you have to GET there. You don’t just see something cool, hop out of your car, and start dancing. The expedition is part of the piece. Getting there is what creates the dance.

Hike My Hike, Dance My Dance is my first Wilderness Dancing venture. This project will combine two of my long-term goals: hiking the PCT, and merging my outdoor and dance professions. It will be the test run, of what I hope becomes many more wilderness dance projects.

This project will be both a video documentary of the hike, and dance for film.

During the hike, I will choreograph and film a series of solos that are site specific pieces created in some of the amazing places I wander through. These pieces will be an artistic, bodily expression and interpretation of the things I see and experience.

The final video editing of these dances will make them dance for film, becoming part of the art. The dance at the location and the way it is presented and edited on film will become the dance piece.

The resulting video will combine it all: the trials and successes of a long hike, the creative process of making the dances, and the finished pieces.

What I hope to achieve with this project will expand the audience for dance, and for wilderness. Dancing on the trail will be a new way to expose this art to the hiking culture, and in turn, the film will share wilderness with those who haven’t yet experienced it first hand.

Perhaps it will expand advocacy for wilderness preservation, and care for the environment.
Perhaps it will expand appreciation for dance as an art, and reach those who don’t frequent dance performances.
Perhaps it will just be a way to share my view of the journey.

Want to help make wilderness dancing happen?

Your support of this project will allow me to show you what is possible with wilderness dancing.

The journey is long. This trek will take approximately 5 ½ months. I will begin in late April, and finish early October.

Funding will be used to help with costs of travel to the trailhead, supplies, gear, wardrobe, and production of the video. Fortunately, rehearsal and performance space on the trail is free. My estimated total costs will be around $5,000. Most of the funding for this project is coming out of my own pocket.

View my KICKSTARTER FUNDRAISER to see the fun rewards you will get as a backer of this project.

UPDATE: My kickstarter fundraiser was successful! You can still donate to the project and receive the rewards I offer through kickstarter (postcards and more!) Just hit the boot donation button on the top right corner of this page and you’re on your way to being part of  the journey!

Everyone can be part of the expedition and follow updates I post on my website.

It’s time to go dancing in the wild places

About Natalie

Natalie Fisher is a dancer, teacher, silk aerialist, and choreographer. She is inspired by the wilderness. Her work involves finding the seam where her worlds of dance, aerials and the wilderness meet.

15 thoughts on “Hike My Hike, Dance My Dance

  1. Natalie!! haven’t talked in forever, and when i saw this in my events on FB, i had to check it out. needless to say, i think this is AWESOME wat you’re doing. oh my gosh. reading this only inspires people, me in particular, to not give up on your dreams and aspirations. i hope that all goes well for you during this trip!!! <3<3

  2. I will be hiking the PCT this year as well. I’m excited to learn more about your project and hopefully see you on the trail. Good luck!

  3. This is so amazing. I very happy that you are able to do this. This should act as motivation for so many to follow their dreams.
    Oh! I so want to go with you. 🙂

  4. Hi Natalie, what a neat idea. We are also doing a documentary…no dancing ideas yet..but maybe…lol ya i don’t think so. We are starting out on the 22nd so maybe we’ll see you out there. Good luck with all your planning! Ian

  5. Natalie,
    I tried emailing you but your email address was rejected. Anyway,
    I think your thru hike will truly be a unique experience.
    Sure, we would like to sponsor you on your 2012 PCT thru hike.

    I can’t wait to see what you can do with the StickPic while dancing along the PCT.

    You can count on us 100% for any replacements if needed while you are on the trail.

    All I need is your mailing address and to know what make and model trekking poles you plan to use.


  6. Hi Natalie,
    I live in the Portland area and I will be hiking the PCT this year also. I hope to see you along the way. Best wishes for your journey.

  7. Good luck on your journey. I just got done donating. I saw your story in the Klamath Falls newspaper. I’ve hiked sections of the PCT and have had wild dreams that maybe I’ll do it someday. It feels good to support a creative endeavor like this. Peace to you on all your steps!

  8. Nat! -I will totally be following your blog and eagerly awaiting the stories and dances you post! SUPER excited for you girl! -Makes me wish our tramping time in NZ coulda been longer…
    -I’ll be back in NM this summer doing wilderness fire-fighting [something new].
    -You’ll be in my thoughts and prayers during your trip!
    -Miss ya friend!

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