September 19 – 21, 2019
featuring Sharleen Chidiac, Tenaya Kelleher, Jes Nelson, and Susannah Yugler
curated by Moira Sims
Plank Road is pleased to present Alexa West’s site-specific 30 minute choreography featuring Sharleen Chidiac, Tenaya Kelleher, Jes Nelson, and Susannah Yugler titled: Pavilion.
A century ago, the Ridgewood neighborhood that surrounds Plank Road was home to abundant dancing pavilions. These public, semi-indoor spaces were defined as free standing, open-air structures with roofs and no walls. Pavilions offered the community shelter from the elements and a meeting place for collective recreation, while enforcing behavioral norms in the public sphere. After completion of the Queensboro Bridge in 1909, Queens transformed from farmland and sparse settlements into densely settled, immigrant communities, mainly comprised of tightly packed row houses. These communities desired free-of-charge spaces to congregate outside of work and houses of worship, and dancing pavilions became ubiquitous. Rapid city expansion forced the collective consciousness to reconsider the value of public recreational space.
New York City continued to expand, and in 1961 the Department of City Planning instituted zoning laws to generate Publicly Owned Private Spaces (POPS) within newly constructed skyscrapers and luxury towers. With this new legislation, developments over a certain size were required to consider the public and offer a percentage of their plot as refuge for all. POPS requirements remain loose, and developers can decide to construct and maintain a lush green space — or opt to simply open a slab of concrete to the public in exchange for lenient tax waivers from the city. These in-between spaces offer urbanites a modern taste of pavilions past – in good weather, lone office workers have a place away from their desks to eat lunch.
In her own practice, West observes and collects movements from everyday life: a family sitting on a park bench and motioning to one another in conversation; someone searching for a dropped coin under a chair; a straphanger slumping into the subway pole after a long day. The gestures West draws from in this choreography range from total banality to oddly coincidental. Collaborating with four trained dancers, West has envisioned a long form amalgamation of both real and imagined public behaviors, touching on the way we interact with others and with city structures. Site-specific street furniture provides audience seating, allowing the audience to participate in both observing and being observed in a semi-public setting. Pavilion encourages the audience to replicate West’s own artistic practice by sitting on a park bench and becoming aware of their surroundings.