East River Park, the Promenade area: The Cove, and The Dance Oval
The East River Park and much of the area directly to the West of the Park, is landfill. “In 1825 the area was marked by ship building industries and a number of busy waterfront markets. By the 1860’s the sea trade moved to the Hudson River, docks gave way to factories, slaughterhouses, power stations and railroad yards.
“In the late 19th Century, tenements started to be built near the East River. In the early 1930’s, plans were made to create park land for the Lower East Side and by 1939 the East River Park was opened.” (Paraphrased from The New York City Parks and Recreation Department website.)
This area is a major artery of New York City transportation, facilitating exchange of goods and services from one location to another, from one borough to another. This is an area rich in immigrant history as well as being important to the native Indian tribes who lived here and traveled these waterways for centuries before settlers came here from Europe.
Over the years, like most of the urban waterways, the East River became polluted and dangerous to wildlife. Recently, changes have been made and little by little, some of the local wildlife is returning. These days, when you visit this estuary park land area, you can see cormorants flying, landing, waiting, searching and catching fish! Over the last few years, local politicians have been working to improve and revitalize the East River Park.
Mindy Levokove, the choreographer for this site, says, “I am a multi-media performance artist, using dance, music, costumes, vocalization, video and spoken word. I have worked with folks of varied backgrounds, abilities and interests and I particularly enjoy working with diverse populations. I am interested in dance that reflects the environment where it is performed and am partial to tribal, ritual, expressionistic type of performance, relying heavily on ethnic forms for style and structure. I particularly love to improvise and to perform with folks who want to try something “new”.
The music we used was made from local, found trash objects, like plastic and boxes as well as from traditional, acoustic instruments, especially drums, whistles and flute, as well as from call and response songs and vocalizing. We also relied heavily on the local sounds of the water, the cars on the FDR Drive and the ambient street noise. We were not allowed to use amplified sound where we were performing, so we needed to work especially hard to provide the dancers and the audience with the appropriate sound experience. It was a challenge!
The performance was in 4 parts. The first part took place on the Promenade, just north of The Cove. The caller started a chant and the performers began to move slowly to the beginning performance site, by the fence, just by the water.
We invoked Yemanja and other classical water deities, to give thanks, to ask for favor and to align ourselves with the cosmic whole. Then (second part) we moved to the Dance Oval, directly west of the Promenade, where we began our dance of human life and energy: moving then to power, strength, aggression, control, over-development and finally to excess.
In the 3rd Section, we turned back to one another, for understanding and for cooperation, for humility and generosity. This section was the turning point of our dance.
The Fourth Section was when we danced with the audience in a chorus of joy and celebration of our purpose, our shared experience and of our Oneness.