Muscle Memory


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On the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, there will be dancing from morning till evening in response to that tragedy and its lasting effects. All of it will be outdoors and free of charge, as several choreographers offer meditative, solemn or quietly uplifting works in settings where a maximum number of people can experience them.


Dance performances were taking place on the World Trade Center Plaza during the week when the terror attacks occurred, and the Evening Stars series was scheduled to present Parsons' company on the 11th. As it turned out, the performance by Twyla Tharp Dance on Sept. 8 turned out to be the last one to take place before the towers fell.


Choreographers, so many of whom live and work in lower Manhattan, have reacted to the fateful day's events often and with varying approaches. Some created works as specific memorials and tributes. Mark Morris' V and Paul Taylor's Promethean Fire?eloquent masterworks that premiered soon after the events?though abstract and in no way specifically linked to September 11, emerged as inspiring, hopeful responses to the tragedy.


On this anniversary, the first dance event will coincide with the time when the first plane struck the World Trade Center. Jacqulyn Buglisi's Table of Silence Project will offer a ceremonial, spare procession by 100 dancers in white who will form a peace labyrinth encircling the Lincoln Center fountain. It will begin at 8:20 a.m. and culminate at 8:46 with the mass of dancers raising their outstretched arms in a gesture of universal peace.


Buglisi intends the piece as a way of opening this somber day with a prayer. The 100 dancers represent many nations and a wide variety of backgrounds and dance experience.


"I hope the Table of Silence Project provides hope and global understanding. It's not really a dance, but an expression of our humanity in a universal language," she said recently after rehearsing 70 of the dancers at the Baryshnikov Arts Center.


As waves of dancers moved through grounded, cyclical phrases, she emphasized the importance of breathing and the specific force and intention of each step. Those participating include her own company members as well as students from Juilliard, Martha Graham Center, the Ailey School, National Dance Institute, Ballet Hispanico, STEPS on Broadway and Peridance Capezio Center.


Sarah Skaggs' 9/11 Dance%u2015A Roving Memorial, performed by 20 dancers (including herself), will migrate through lower Manhattan with performances in three parks during the afternoon. For this occasion, Skaggs has broadened Dances for Airports, a solo, into a group piece that will also be performed the same day at three sites in Washington, D.C., and also in Shanksville, Penn., at the memorial park on the site where Flight 93 went down.


The original solo was something Skaggs began shortly after the attacks. She lived 20 blocks from the World Trade Center.


"What are we supposed to do after something like that: go back into studio, isolate ourselves and continue with our work as if nothing had happened?" she says. "It changed what the function of dance was, for me. Without being a didactic, political piece of art, could it have another focus? I started to reassess what was the function and meaning of dance. Was it really this ecstatic thing in the body? I started by standing still in the studio, and one of my dancers handed me Brian Eno's Music for Airports, and I began to make a solo that was really slow and reflective and tapped a new kind of dance vocabulary for me.


"I had a eureka moment in May where I thought, I have to teach this?I can't just do this dance by myself in rarefied concert form; I have to go teach this dance to all kinds of dancers. We're going to walk around on 9/11 with this material as a movement choir. I called it an inverse flash mob in the beginning, but that was confusing people. It's a meditative, reflective dance that infuses the public's fear with the body in a beautiful, flowing way. At these outdoor performances, the piece will be be embedded in the park itself, so we're among the people milling around. It begins very much guerilla style; you don't know that it's actually started, but you figure out something is happening."


The performances of Skaggs' 11-minute work will take place at noon in Union Square Park, at 1 p.m. in Washington Square Park and 2 p.m. in Battery Park, at the north end of each park.


The day's final dance event takes place in Rockefeller Park, located at the northern end of Battery Park City. The Joyce Theater Foundation is presenting this evening of dance and music on both Sept. 10 and 11 at 5 p.m. The Limón Dance Company will perform Jose Limón's Missa Brevis and the Paul Taylor Company will perform Brandenburgs. Matthew Rushing of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre will dance Ailey' A Song for You, while Ailey dancer Jamar Roberts will appear in a new work by Jessica Lang commissioned by the Joyce for this occasion. The Voices of Ascension and the Orchestra of St. Luke's will provide music.


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