As you can see from the photo above, several thousand people came to see us at the Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival, July 27-31. The Festival organizers estimate that up to 1,500 people came every night for our five performances. The Festival and our own staff, not to mention myself and Koma, were happily surprised by the size and quality of crowds who even showed up faithfully on Friday night when a thunderstorm did not clear up until shortly before show time. Our project coordinator Lydia reports, "It was an eerily intimate experience in such a public and crowded space. I was delighted to see audience members of all ages, from many different parts of the world. There was a wonderful energy, a sense of a ritual and yet surprise between strangers who sat or stood shoulder to shoulder."
While Koma and I were preparing for the shows, we observed that there were two groups. Those who arrived early (some people started to occupy seats two hours before the 9:30 show time) and those who joined after another show in the Festival ended, right before our show time. The first group surely included our friends and hardcore audience members (we also spotted many people who came to see the show more than once) and the second group looked like the people who were just discovering our work for the first time. And that is the beauty of an outdoor festival with free admission. Despite Festival Director Bill Bragin's earnest plea, tons of people were taking pictures. It was as if red (focusing light) and white (flash) fireflies were all over. This might have been the most recorded event in our career!
Robert Mirabal who stayed in the water the entire time with us did not play any music for the first 20 minutes, creating a magically weighted silence in the middle of Manhattan that audience members seemed to fully embrace. When we became nothing but two faces floating in water, Robert broke that silence with the simple but consistent beat of hitting an amplified wooden box (the site was too wet for his drums) that became collective heartbeats. Robert was also the master of ceremonies and caretaker of the site, sending a raft made by driftwood and lighting candles. Though the pool is less than knee deep, we managed to almost immerse ourselves and many people thought the pool was deep where we danced. As we drifted away from the audience with the candlelight flickering onto the Henry Moore sculptures, Robert ended the evening with a beautiful flute song.
Because Robert traveled to Japan several times and met people in the area affected by the tsunami, his composition was an offering to those who lost lives there last spring. For Water, we collaborated with Robert in such a way that was only possible from having known each other for so long. We first worked together in 1990 and have felt like family ever since. We exited from the pool without a bow, leaving the audience alone with the water.
It was a pleasure to work for the first time with the people of the Lincoln Center Outdoors Festival and its Director Bill Bragin. Crews led by the festival's delightful Technical Director Randall Etheredge were fantastic. Our own wonderful team consisted of lighting designer Kathy Kaufmann, assistant Eric Bissell, project coordinator Lydia Bell, manager Ivan Sygoda and producer Sam Miller who first thought of this site. Our deep thanks to all of these people above plus Aviva Davidson for presenting our past site works in New York City and for introducing us to Bill Bragin.