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Free Dance in Summertime New York | Eiko + Koma
Free Dance in Summertime New York
Photo by William Johnston

Free Dance in Summertime New York

  • The New York Times, June 18, 2015
  • Gia Kourlas

The best part about summer dance isn’t that it’s free: Quality matters as well. This year’s River to River Festival, presented by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, is up to its usual good with performances and works by Twyla Tharp, the Trisha Brown Dance Company and Souleymane Badolo. Outdoor festivals like SummerStage, Celebrate Brooklyn! and Lincoln Center Out of Doors round out the — yes, happily free — programming. Here we highlight the artists behind some choice offerings, and list other performances you should consider adding to your calendar. These conversations have been edited and condensed.

Eiko Otake

‘A Body in a Station’

River to River Festival

Monday and Wednesday at 7 p.m. and Tuesday at 4 p.m.

Fulton Center, Manhattan

Ms. Otake, the Japanese dance artist who usually performs with Koma, continues her solo exploration in “A Body in a Station,” the latest iteration of works that have taken her to abandoned train stations in Fukushima, Japan, and the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. At Fulton Center in Lower Manhattan, she continues her juxtaposition of a fragile body, full of memories, in a public space.

Q. What does Fulton Center mean to you?

A. I can’t just think about it like a New York City train station. This is Fulton Street at Broadway. You can’t quite see the new tower directly from this side of the building, but you can see St. Paul’s Chapel, which is where the rescue workers were. I don’t want to be all the trauma of the world, but it feels dishonest if I don’t feel the connection to that 9/11 site. One thing I was thinking about was how to situate my body in the neighborhood rather than just the station.

Q. What is your plan?

A. I will carry the outside to inside. I think if I’m already there, I belong to the building, but this way I can carry the location rather than just the building. I’m not there just to adore the new building.

Q. Or to decorate it?

A. No. I can’t decorate anyway. [Laughs] But I realize the complexity. I was talking to an M.T.A. person who was there on 9/11. We bear that weight even though we don’t talk about it every day. My body has my memory, and as human beings we all carry some kind of a memory and tragedy. Many of us have sickness and wounds; we’re not new beauty. We survived, and we are with a sense of shadows and rustiness in our bodies. At the same time, I want to dance. I want to have that fragile dance.

Q. In Philadelphia, you performed in three-hour segments. Why is this just one hour?

A. I have done the marathon. Now I want to do a medium length. Here I’m dealing with place, and it’s Lower Manhattan, Fulton Street, Broadway — it’s my subway line, and this is my town. River to River is our festival. In the summer, people who are very rich or have very rich friends go somewhere else. We are pretty much leftovers, but still committed to be here. This is a good project for a 63-year-old.

Q. Why?

A. I’m seasoned, wrinkled. Because if I’m 35, I all of a sudden look like a picture of a woman in different places in a travel magazine. And I’m not 98. I’m kind of between grandma and auntie, right? It’s a strange thing to say, but it’s the right age to be in the station.