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Dance performance aims to bring awareness to Baltimore's food deserts

A local dance company will perform a show at the Charm City Fringe Festival this fall that explores the experience of people living in food deserts in Baltimore.

Called “Foodless Food,” the one-hour show premiered in May. Caitlin McAfee, director of BlueShift Dance, created the show, in which she performs alongside fellow dancer Adrienne Kraus Latanishen.

McAfee, a Pasadena resident, said she became aware of Baltimore’s food deserts after noticing vacant grocery stores. She began researching the subject, and said she was floored by statistics she found reporting one in four Baltimore City residents live in food deserts.

A 2015 study by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future defines food deserts as areas where supermarkets are more than a quarter-mile away; the median household income is at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level; more than 30 percent of households do not have a vehicle; and healthy food is not readily available.

McAfee spent about a year doing research and developing the show to draw awareness to the problem.

“We worked from our own reactions to the information,” McAfee said.

She and Latanishen created gestures to represent words that were thematic in their research, and strung them together to create sequences that communicate certain topics, such as the prevalence of junk food in food deserts.

She even hands out junk food to audience members during the interactive show.

“The moral of the story is, it’s pretty tempting. If junk food is all you have you’re probably going to eat it,” McAfee said.

The show uses a lighthearted style, audience participation and multimedia to communicate the heavy topic.

“We in no way are trying to appropriate the perspective of the underprivileged,” McAfee said. “The show is really an expression of our investigative experience. It’s not preachy. It’s not going to be sad. Actually, it’s pretty funny.”

The dancers also involve the audience by giving them writing prompts and interpreting their responses as part of the performances.

In addition to spreading awareness, McAfee hopes the show works towards ending food insecurity in Baltimore. Half the proceeds from the November shows will go to Boone Street Farm (1200 Boone St.), an urban farm that grows produce and teaches nearby residents how to cook it.

“A lot of the kids don’t really know how to make healthy snacks either,” McAfee said. “One of the solutions that’s been put forth is these urban farms that are popping up in Baltimore.”

Tickets to Charm City Fringe Festival performances are available individually ($10), or sold in bundles of three passes ($27), five passes ($42) or all-access passes ($98).

The show will be performed at 322 N. Howard St. on Nov. 3 (8:45 p.m.-9:45 p.m.), Nov. 4 (7 p.m.-8 p.m.), Nov. 10 (8:45 p.m.-9:45 p.m.) and Nov. 12 (6 p.m.-7 p.m.). For more information, go to charmcityfringe.com.

smeehan@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sarahvmeehan

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