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'Bayou's State' Gives a Personal Narrative to an Ecological Problem

The problems plaguing the Louisiana Coast may seem far away. But one local performer is bringing her Cajun heritage to Milwaukee with her new show, Bayou’s State. The show provides an intimate look at the critical problem of coastal land loss.

Andrea Burkholder, the creator of the show and the sole performer, was inspired by the book Bayou Farewell by Mike Tidwell.

“It told the story of coastal Cajun communities that were breaking apart and losing their livelihood because of the devastating land loss issues in Louisiana,” she says. “For me as an artist I suddenly said, ‘Oh my gosh, here I am. I can explore my Cajun heritage and look into environmental issues that have concerned me.’”

Burkholder is both a dancer and an aerial performer, which came in handy when developing this piece. In Bayou’s State, she uses several aerial apparatuses, including a large fishing net to convey the physical loss of land.

Bayou’s State is more than just a performance. It’s also a dinner, a conversation and an exhibit of photographs from local photographer Eddee Daniel, who highlights water quality issues here in Wisconsin.

Most of the photos featured document the Kinnickinnic River, which runs along the south side of Milwaukee. Daniel believes the performance is a way of elevating the conversation on water quality issues.

“We could talk all we want about the issues: rivers in Milwaukee, swampland in Louisiana. We can talk about those til’ we’re blue in the face, but what art does is it reaches the audience on a non-cognitive level,” says Daniel.

Bayou’s State will take place Saturday, April 16 and Sunday, April 17 at Danceworks in Milwaukee. The event will include a homemade, Cajun dinner, so reservations must be made in advance.

Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.