A 40-year-old NYC Roof Dance is Revived on the High Line

“A child is not a vase to be filled, but a fire to be lit.” ~Rabelais 

Thank you, Trisha Brown Dance Company whose red-clad roof dancers lit a fire in a spellbound audience Saturday night.

I wished for a roof performance, and New York City, where heartfelt and earnest wishes come true, provided one for me, almost just outside my bedroom window a few weeks ago at Westbeth.  As my readers know, I missed it.  But NYC is a generous wish grantor and provided another spectacular roof dance performance opportunity this past weekend.  Not only was I there, this time, I got to participate!

Saturday morning, Laurel Jenkins Tentindo, with Samuel Wentz and Leah Morrison, led an exercise where we used the part of our brain they described as the “mirror neuron,” that allows us to copy others’ movements.  Semaphore, Laurel taught us, is an apparatus to convey information, and, she explained, that is what they would be doing through dance on roof tops surrounding the High Line that evening.

Under her tutelage, we tried it and it was completely absorbing, making us forget how chilly the gusty wind blowing off the Hudson was that morning.  Laurel explained that in their dance that evening, nine dancers would be wearing red, reminiscent of ancient times when fires on mountain tops were used to convey information across vast distances.  Evoking this, dancers would stand on rooftops around the High Line where they could see the dancer before and after them.  The dancer at the beginning of the chain would perform random movements while the next dancer would mirror the movements,  and so on down the line.  After 15 minutes, the order would reverse and the dancer, previously at the end of the line, would become the leader.  

I returned Saturday evening to a bustling High Line full of people watching the surrounding roof tops, which, needless to say, warmed my heart!  The crowd loved the performance so much that some of them (note the women in the hats standing on the bench) began mirroring the dancers’ movements as well.

Trisha Brown was way ahead of the LOOKING UP curve, having created this piece 40 years ago.  It was performed on roof tops in SoHo in 1971 and 1973.   It was filmed then, as now, by the renowned experimental film maker Babette Mangolte so if you missed this wonderful roof performance, you will soon have a chance to see it through her artistic eyes.

I’ll be back very soon with more on Eli Zabar’s The Vinegar Factory’s fascinating roof farm.  Hint:  Did you know you can grow figs in New York City?  Neither did Eli until he tried it and now he has 80 of them on his roof tops in the Upper East Side!

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4 thoughts on “A 40-year-old NYC Roof Dance is Revived on the High Line

  1. I wish I had been there to share this fantastic experience of the dancers in red. Looks like the crowd really enjoyed it. Wasn’t she ahead of her time!!!!

  2. I love the rooftop “telephone game” concept. Did the movements look anything the same after they wrapped back to the beginning? Rooftops planting red people/”fire dancers” instead of green plants.

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