Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dance at Socrates Sculpture Park

By Charles Kessler

Sydney Schiff Dance Project, August 17, 2013, Socrates Sculpture Park.
Norte Maar is sponsoring a series of free outdoor dance performances at Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City. The performances take place at 3pm every Saturday afternoon in August, but you can also go during the week and watch the dancers rehearse, and you can talk to the different choreographers as they work on their dances. I went to the first two performances, and they were exhilarating, especially the Gleich Dancers. There are two dances left – try to go if you can. The whole experience was an absolute delight.
Gleich Dancers, Selection from Speak Easy Secrets, Dance at Socrates, August 10, 2013.
Here you are in a beautiful park – naturally beautiful, not manicured – that's situated on the East River overlooking Manhattan, with trees and large sculptures scattered about. Plus you get to watch extraordinarily skilled dancers up close. You can't have a more pleasant experience – at least in New York in August.

I've been seeing a lot of dance lately, and I've come to the conclusion that dance is magical in a way no other art form (except possibly opera) can duplicate. Real live people (okay, younger and thinner) fly, or are effortlessly lifted in the air as if they weigh nothing; and their movements are more graceful (even when they try to be awkward), and certainly more interesting, than ordinary people's. Sure, flying and all kinds of fantastic things happen in movies, but it's not live. In addition, a lot of dance is joyous and ebullient – something that hardly exists anymore in painting and sculpture, unfortunately.

Then there's Socrates Sculpture Park itself. In the early eighties it was an illegal dump – an abandoned four-acre wasteland. In 1986 the sculptor Mark di Suvero brought together a group of artists and people from the area to clean it up with the idea of making it into an informal community park and a place where sculptors could make and exhibit their art. When I first started going there in the late eighties, it was still pretty raw and didn't look much different from the photo below
Socrates Sculpture Park before it was developed. (Photo from the Socrates Sculpture Park website.)
Now it's an official New York City park with an ambitious exhibition schedule and a residency program that not only supplies space for emerging sculptors to make and exhibit their work, but also provides access to facilities, materials, equipment, on-site staff expertise, AND a $5,000 grant. It's much nicer now in a lot of ways, but I miss the exciting entrepreneurial anarchy of the old days.
Anthony Heinz May, one of the 2013 Emerging Artist Fellows, working on his sculpture.
So if you go to the dance performances or rehearsals in August, take the opportunity to look at the sculptures that are in the process of being built, and maybe talk to some of the sculptors.

The address: 32-01 Vernon Boulevard at Broadway, Long Island City (Queens), NY 11106.
Directions: During the week both the Q and N trains will get you there, but on weekends ONLY the
N train goes there. Get off at the Broadway stop in Long Island City, Queens, and either walk eight blocks west on Broadway (toward the East River – 3/4 mile according to Google Maps, about a 15 minute walk) until it dead-ends at Vernon Boulevard, or take the Broadway bus which comes by about every 10 minutes.
Hours: Open every day from 10 am until sunset.

You can also easily go to the Noguchi Museum, only a block away on Vernon Blvd. at 33rd Road, and make a day of it.
Isamu Naguchi Museum Garden.

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