Crowds gathered, even when they didn't know exactly what they were watching. Photo by Rachel Papo

What Happens When Site-Specific Dance Takes Over Times Square

At first glance, Times Square might seem like a near-impossible location for a site-specific dance performance. Between tourists posing for selfies, flashing billboards, New Yorkers rushing to work and people in Batman costumes trying to make a buck, it can be completely overwhelming and overstimulating. But that also makes it interesting.

"At its essence, Times Square is bodies moving through time and space," says Andrew Dinwiddie, acting director of public art at the Times Square Alliance. It's also a place with a rich dance history, from vaudeville to Broadway musicals to dance halls and studios.

Dinwiddie worked with Judy Hussie-Taylor, the executive director and chief curator of Danspace Project, to create a program of original works in Times Square this fall that reference the history and experience of the place. An estimated 33,000 people passed through the area each day during the four-hour program—most just happening upon it. What they saw was unique even for Times Square.


Laurie Berg's scape

Photo by Rachel Papo

Just below the signature red stairs of TKTS, the discount-ticket booth where theater lovers congregate every day, Laurie Berg and her six dancers wove in and out of the crowd in Father Duffy Square, performing scape. Sometimes, a small circle of attention cleared around them as they danced in unison to a pulsing beat. Other times, they were among the pedestrians, nearly brushing the face of a tourist. Times Square Arts employees handed out disposable glasses, each tinted with red or blue film. Many passersby grabbed a pair with no idea of what they were taking, or why.

Full Circle Souljahs' Behind The Groove—Times Square Edition

Photo by Rachel Papo

For Rokafella and Kwikstep, the married duo behind Full Circle Souljahs, dancing in Times Square has special significance. "Kwikstep and I met dancing on the street," says Rokafella. "We were part of different crews in the early '90s, putting our talents out there for the tourists, with this classic style of dance that was not being highlighted in the mainstream." They used to set up right in Duffy Square. The police would often interrupt their shows, sometimes arresting the dancers.

luciana achugar's New Mass Dance

Photo by Rachel Papo

The space presented its challenges. People would often mock them or crowd around to watch while they rehearsed. One time the police even came, wondering why they were all lying on the ground. Also, achugar adds, "We had to get over getting dirty."

She hopes her work helped people to slow down and rethink their own relationship to the space. "There's something draining about the amount of images that are constantly bombarding you," she says. "My ideal would be that they feel freed from this rush of linear forward time."

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The Dance Community Wants You to Get Out the Vote

Without the regular bustle of the fall performance season, much of the dance community has a rare amount of free time on its hands—and it's being put to good use. Many artists and organizations are redirecting their energy from the rehearsal studio to an extremely important cause: urging the community to vote. And, of course, they're doing it with a signature dance flair.

Here are just a few of the get-out-the-vote efforts and events happening online and across the country. For more arts-related resources about voting, including the deadline to register in your state, check out Dance/USA's November 2020 Election Toolkit.

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