What It's Like to Dance All Night
That feeling when you have four shows between 7 pm and 7 am
What does it feel like to dance an all-night marathon of performances? Five dancers recently found out during
Trisha Brown: In Plain Site, part of “A Night of Philosophy and Ideas” at the Brooklyn Public Library. The festival of screenings, debate and performances took place in over 30 cities around the globe, with the Brooklyn edition lasting from 7 pm on January 28 to 7 am the next day. The Trisha Brown dancers put on a series of four site-specific performances, and Mariah Maloney kept a diary of her experience:
I’m heading to the Brooklyn Public Library. In my overnight bag, I’ve packed five six-inch balls, a blanket, pillow, yoga mat, headphones, toothbrush, toothpaste, makeup, lotion, deodorant and sparkling water.
Our guide navigates us through the crowd to the Commons Room to listen to Trisha Brown’s audio recording of Skymap (1969). I lay down with fellow Trisha Brown dancer Brandi Norton to absorb Trisha’s voice.
Stage manager Jessie Ksanznak calls half hour until our first performance. I put on headphones to listen to Bob Dylan’s “Early Morning Rain,” gently letting my feet find the rhythm, allowing my arms to enact Trisha’s 1973 Spanish Dance score, where a dancer slowly raises her arms like a magnificent Spanish dancer and travels forward in time.
Spanish Dance in 1977. Photo by Tristan Vales via trishabrowndancecompany.org
I walk to my floor tape near the returns desk and take my place in the center of five women. Leah Morrison, at the far back, begins the piece; Vicky Schick is next; then me; then Amanda Kmett’Pendry and finally Brandi.
I hear people shifting as they try to get a view. Leah and Vicky’s soft pitter pat footsteps approach my body, a whisper of a knee visits the back of my right knee and then my left knee and I can feel the surface of Vicky’s body against mine as my body joins the passage of Spanish Dance. I see Amanda’s long braid with slight blue streaks and I allow my knee to visit the back surface of her knee. I am the center of the sandwich as we meet Brandi; I feel a wonderful squish and suspension within the line of swaying bodies.
Harmonica vibrations reverberate through the library. Suddenly we stop, pressed up against the wall. A wave of energy, clapping, laughter and conversation erupts from the audience. We have made our first foray into this evening.
Next, Vicky captivates the crowd with an except from Son of Gone Fishin’ (1981). Brandi and Leah locate opposite ends of the Grand Lobby for Trisha Brown’s iconic Accumulation (1971). And the performance concludes with the Groove and Countermove (2000) duet performed eloquently by Amanda and Leah.
Vicky and Brandi in the green room
I rest in the green room, rolling on my balls.
Group Primary Accumulation begins. I lay supine on the floor, watching the crowd overflowing the Grand Lobby’s vast architecture: Bodies are filling the ground level and peeking over the edge of the second- and third-floor balconies. First gesture: right finger tips rise toward the ceiling, elbow releases to the floor. Repeat first gesture, add second gesture. Repeat first gesture, add second and now third.
I ride the post-performance energy and engage in conversations with audience members.
Brandi and I find ourselves in the midst of a yoga session.
Seated at the calligraphy table, I find it hard to focus. I join a few strangers in the Commons Room where I rest on mats and pillows.
I feel like I am going to fall asleep and decide moving will help, so I join a dance party to Michael Jackson in the Grand Lobby with 100 other night owls. My body feels loose, warm and easy, but my eyes feel heavy.
Most of us are horizontal
I lay down in the Commons Room with a group of people listening to rapper LA Latasha Alcindor. I realize I am fading fast. A cup of hot tea is essential.
Back in the green room, most of us are horizontal, some sleeping, and some resting yet awake.
Quiet conversations, costumes, fresh applications of makeup and movement begin. The stage manager calls half hour and we start to rally.
The once-crowded library gives way to an open floor. Small clusters of people gather around the periphery. We arrive into the space for another Spanish Dance; Bob Dylan’s music begins and so do we, joined by the inspiring Trisha Brown dancer and “Night of Philosophy and Ideas” curator Iréne Hultman.
Next, Vicky performs an excerpt from Son of Gone Fishin’ (1981). Amanda and I then dance part of For M.G.: The Movie (1991): We initiate layered gestures over one another, I dissolve into a slow motion solo transitioning from standing to floor level while Amanda rises to vertical, moving into the space with a feisty solo.
Wake up and dance: Vicky and Irene
It’s fascinating to feel our exhausted bodies respond to the unique experience of dancing this choreography. The early morning becomes a sort of group meditation as thousands of people rally through the wee hours.
The performance concludes with Group Primary Accumulation, a work that requires a great deal of concentration. As we enact the final gestures, there is a sense of absolute solidarity with our audience. We stand up and find ourselves hugging each other. We have entered into a different state, one that feels unformed, flowing and dreamlike. The Grand Lobby feels relaxed—the space is our home, a home where thousands of people have gathered to exchange ideas and to witness.
6 am: Quick selfie with the group
Many slumber party library-goers witness our final performance of Spanish Dance. Some quietly try it on their own bodies, hips swaying in solidarity with us. A final Groove and Countermove by Amanda brings us to our finish line.
All done, and heading home
We make one last trip to the green room to change out of the white costumes, give hugs goodbye, gather our things and head home. As I get in the car, I fall into my seat, deeply content as I feel the experience of the life-changing night wash over me.