“The floor is melting,” Christopher Wheeldon told the audience at 5p.m. on Sunday as he decided to cut the afternoon performance short. Held in the East River Park in Manhattan, this was Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company’s the third outdoor performance this weekend. Yet, unlike the performances presented on the Central Park Summer Stage Friday and Saturday nights accompanied by live music, fancy lighting, costumes and more than 5,000 people watching each evening, this CityParks Dance event was a raw and realistic example of what everyday dancers endure in order to promote their art.
At the start of event, in the almost hidden amphitheater, world-renowned dancers including Maria Kowroski, Edwaard Liang, Jason Fowler and Teresa Reichlen held on to police barricades (makeshift barres) as they demonstrated barrework. Jeff Edwards, the company’s Associate Artistic Director and Ballet Master, led the smiling dancers (clad in leotards, sweats and socks) through a complete, but very brief ballet class, and explained the basics to the few onlookers—many of whom seemed to have stumbled across the performance during their Sunday jog. Next, in the 90 degrees of blazing sunshine (that was now directly in their vision) and on the sticky, un-sprung plastic floor with extremely limited stage space, three dancers showed a thirty-second segment of Wheeldon’s 2007 piece, Fools Paradise, and Tears of St. Lawrence, which just debuted that Friday night. Wheeldon gave the dancers corrections and staged a mock-ten minute rehearsal. Not to say it wasn’t an amazing ten-minutes—they are among the best ballet dancers in the world and didn’t hold back—but it was clear conditions were less than ideal, and understandable why Wheeldon ended the event after only an hour. It was surprising to see such a famous and celebrated ballet company in this situation; however, this truthful performance, which exposed dance in a light without glitz, glamour, or TV cameras, was a welcomed breath of fresh air.