Choreographed by Melissa Riker
Produced by Kinesis Project Dance Theatre
Off Off Broadway, Dance
Runs through 7.30.17
Ship Wavertree, docked at South Street Seaport's Pier 15
by Asya Danilova on 7.28.17
The cast of Secrets and Seawalls.
BOTTOM LINE: A revived version of Kinesis Project’s meditation on power and vulnerability takes place aboard a restored cargo ship.
Wavertree, a restored 1885 cargo ship, is the location and star of Secret and Seawalls, a show about both battery seawalls and the inner structures of the human psyche that premiered in 2015 on the beach in Fort Tilden. This summer, choreographer Melissa Riker teamed up with the South Street Seaport Museum and included Wavertree's architecture in this dance meditation about the strength of physical and mental structures that we create to keep our secrets safe.
Four dancers—Cassandra Cotta, Andrew Broaddus (stepping in for Zachary Denison), Michelle Amara Micc and Zoe Alloco—first appear in the distance, on Pier 11. Their silhouetted figures dance amongst bystanders, moving leisurely from the tip of the pier to the embankment. The ballet in the distance is accompanied by the musicians aboard: Katie Down (glass and percussion), Michael Evans (mixed percussion), and Helen Yee (violin and harmonica). The soothing music continues as the dancers join the audience on the deck, mixing with a subtle traffic hum and horns of ships passing by.
The first, more cohesive part of Secrets and Seawalls doesn’t tell much of a story but succeeds in creating an atmosphere. As the ship gently rocks on the waves, the dancers, dressed in futuristic, post-apocalyptic costumes by Asa Thornton, explore the architecture of the space through movement. From time to time you hear a whisper of one of the performers behind you, but then it fades away. The magical atmosphere created by music, sounds of the environment, and the subtle movement of the ship builds up anticipation, but is never fully realized.
For the second act, the audience is invited to Wavertree's upper deck and divided in four groups, a performer attached to each of them. We play a variation of a drinking game (with a chip or piece of popcorn in place of alcohol) where each person in the circle gets to say what they always wanted to do and why they never did it. Sharing food and intimate information with others creates a powerful force field, which strengthens when a dancer whispers her secret into my ear.
But the moment the connection is established, the dancers abandon their befriended audiences and start interacting with each other through some kind of free dance that is occasionally violent and comedic. They mumble and accompany their movements with sounds, at times cartoonish and at times resembling the reading of some dry official documents. The choreography seems disconnected from the interactive parts, and the rapid switch from one to another is distracting.
When making an interactive show involving sharing secrets, you have to be mindful about your audience in an almost therapeutic way. Kinesis Project happens upon a goldmine during the group experience and one-on-one dialogues, but just disturbs the surface without bringing closure. But the idea is worth developing, as it provides a head-spinning range of distances between performer and audience member. Secrets and Seawalls starts and ends with a dance you watch from a great distance, but bears little moments of intimacy in between.
(Secrets and Seawalls plays aboard the ship Wavertree, docked at Pier 15 at the South Street Seaport (across from John Street) through July 30, 2017. The running time is 70 minutes with no intermission. Remaining performance is on July 30 at 5. Tickets are $30, VIP tickets are $45 (includes pre-show tour of Wavertree and meet-and-greet with the performers after the show). For tickets visit southstreetseaportmuseum.org.)
Secrets and Seawalls is choreographed by Melissa Riker. Produced by Kinesis Project dance theatre. Costumes by Asa Thornton.
The cast is Cassandra Cotta, Andrew Broaddus (stepping in for Zachary Denison), Michelle Amara Micca, Zoe Alloco.