Saturday, September 22, 2018

The sign reads: Danspace Project at Times Square!

Laurie Berg (front, right) and dancers
perform -scape- in Times Square
(photo: Nicky Paraiso)
Inspired by Times Square’s history as the home of Broadway musicals, vaudeville, dance halls, and vernacular dance forms that emerged throughout the 20th century, Danspace Project has partnered with Times Square Arts to commission three new, site-specific dance works by esteemed New York City artists. -- from publicity for Danspace Project in Times Square

Congratulations to the folks at Danspace Project!

As directed by Prof. Google, I got off the R train at 49th Street and exited at 47th, not quite sure where I'd find this "Duffy Square" and you. But then--wow!--a mainstage with big sign:

You all really have come a long way. Well, let's see. That would be nearly forty blocks, six subway stations?

Front: Ana "Rokafella" Garcia
Back, from left: luciana achugar,
Gabriel "Kwiikstep" Garcia and Laurie Berg
at the crossroads of the world
(photo: Ian Douglas)

And what a great night for outdoor performance. Refreshingly cool. A happy swirl of tourists speaking a multitude of languages (all variations on Uh...what? What are they doing?) and lifting phones to capture the unexpected moment. Starting around 6pm, Laurie Berg's dancers snaked through the gathered crowd, occasionally dropping out of view, their genial dancing accompanied by the rumble of trains beneath the grates.

Berg's -scape- has an easy-breezy feel that, at the same time, feels defiant of the towering advertisements that color and dazzle and overpower and absolutely define the area. In the middle of all of this, the ensemble seems to say, are us. Notice us. Notice yourselves. Turn your captured gaze away from the ads for a minute, and see us dancing.

The piece concludes with the troupe climbing the square's big staircase to the top where they sit, neatly spaced across the top step, and run a long, long, arcane string of semaphoric gestures and rhythmic, synchronized movements. They know they can't rise as high as the bright lights of Broadway and the corporate messages those lights train down on helpless humanity, but they can seize their own moment and send their own "message" that doesn't have to mean any one particular thing because, after all, this is Danspace Project.

-scape- performers: Jodi Bender, Laurie Berg, Melanie Greene, Madison Krekel, Kyle Marshall, Tonya Sisco, Anna Adams Stark

Costume Design/Concept: Liliana Dirks-Goodman, Jaime Shearn Coan, Laurie Berg
Costume Printing: Print All Over Me
Sound Design: Rena Anakwe
Glasses: Everything Branded
Gloves: Tyler James Designs

Along the way from -scape- and luciana achugar's 7pm performance of New Mass Dance, some of us stopped to watch some non-Danspace dancers work their own street dancing project, the kind you're more likely to see everyday. Then it was on to Broadway Plaza (at 44th Street), where I only knew I was in the right place when I noticed a woman steadying herself as she mounted one of those short, thick steel posts that act as a security barrier. Sure enough, it was achugar, assisted by a pair of those "barefoot" running shoes molded around each toe. And then I noticed several other people, a few of them also perched on posts, dressed like her in denim and the running shoes.

New Mass Dance came off as a ritual at the crossroads--the crossroads of the world, that is, as Times Square has long been called. The ensemble eventually drew a rapt crowd, but it was amazing to see how oblivious most passersby remained at the outset, never breaking stride, even those who bothered to snap a picture.

achugar built things up from a simple group circle with clasped hands pumping up and down to raise energy to a Busby Berkeley-style star pattern of synchronized (though markedly diverse) bodies to a writhing tangle of hedonists. At one point, after gazing around at the Ernst & Young ad and the Hard Rock Cafe facade and the like, I suddenly remembered how the dancer Eiko Otake's body has intervened in all kinds of places. achugar's piece, though lacking Otake's gravity and poignancy, did feel like an intervention. But I doubt last evening's strollers and watchers got achugar's intended, embedded connections to 1930s labor demonstrations, left-wing dance agitprop and resistance.

New Mass Dance performers: luciana achugar, Oren Barnoy, Rachel Berman, Malcolm-x Betts, Michael Mahalchick, Rebecca Wender, Sarah White

I regret I missed Full Circle Souljahs, the street dancing/club dancing troupe directed by Ana "Rokafella" Garcia and Gabriel "Kwikstep" Dionisio, back at Danspace Project's mainstage where they performed Behind the Groove: Times Square Edition. It had been a long evening for me, most of it spent on my feet. Close to the souljah's 8pm start time, I wound through Times Square's public space enticements--wow!--heading back to the subway.

Full Circle Souljahs: Odylle “Mantis” Beder, John “Flonetik” Vinuya, Nasir “Kid Break” Malave, Mark “Styleski” Mack, Raymond “Spex” Abbiw, Richard James
FC Hardrocks: Deana Richline, Jennifer “Beasty” Acosta, Janice Tomlinson, Sharmaine Sheppard
Lite feet by Noahlot: KR3Ts
Krumping: TJ Rocka and the Nu Knynnes
Logo design: Shiro
T-shirts: Eric Michael
Kuduro choreography: Manuel Kanza

Danspace Project at Times Square, presented in partnership with Times Square Arts, continues tonight and Sunday evening, beginning at 6pm. For information and directions, click here.

Information on the individual works can be found at these links:

-scape- (6pm at Duffy Square)

New Mass Dance (7pm at Broadway Plaza)

Behind the Groove: Times Square Edition (8pm at Duffy Square)

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