As Ebony celebrated Katherine Dunham, Nick Cave was featuring dozens of Alvin Ailey dancers wearing 30 colorful horse “soundsuits” in his public performance piece at Grand Central station, HEARD•NY. Presented by Creative Time and MTA Arts, the 30 minute performances included a grazing pastoral music and dance sequence followed by a rhythmic choreographed dance, “crossings” in two rings in the hall. The “crossings” take place two time each day, 11 am and 2 pm, this week until Sunday. Harpists Shelley Burgon and Mary Lattimore and percussionists Robert Levin and Junior Wedderburn provided live musical accompaniment and William Gill did the choreography.
As for why Cave did this, he claimed, “We don’t dream anymore… I want to bring us back to a place where we dream, and get out of our day-day-day rituals.” I guess the middle of one of the busiest, congested areas of New York City is one of the perfect places to put some magic into our routine schedules. The costumes included black horse heads with bodies made of colored synthetic raffia, and masks using “Indian, African and Tibetan fabrics, trim and embellishment.” Those masks reminded me of drawings of veiled orisha. Dances in the performances were as visually captivating as the suits as dancers either marched, stomped, and wiggled in the pastoral section, or thrashed and shook as the two dancers in each costume broke apart in the more rhythmic section. I overhead one woman who knew one of the drummers that the music for the dance was improvised, spurred by the counting off of the steps of the dancers.
The structure of the two dances reminded me of shapeshifting as if the horses changed from grazing animals to half-human or alien carnival-esque forms, in terms of the bottom half of the horse, after the change in the music as if part of some secret ritual ceremony. For a few minutes, it became a mythical fantasy world before returning to reality, rejoining together to form the horses again. Below are some pictures and videos I recorded of the performance:
Robert Levin preparing for show
Pastoral section Part 1
Pastoral section Part 2