Body politic: Dancers highlight bias attacks in city

Body politic: Dancers highlight bias attacks in city
Luke Ohlson

The dance is a red alert.

Five dancers, covered head-to-toe with magenta body paint, recently performed strange, silent routines at the sites of racist and homophobic attacks throughout the city. They will recreate those performances at “Sentinel,” at the Brooklyn Historical Society in Downtown on Sept. 14, while films of their public performances play behind them. Flatbush choreographer Danielle Russo — who also directed the films — said the performers hoped to make passersby learn more about the largely-ignored attacks.

“We decided we could do some nonviolent, active protest that could draw attention to these stories that we were very much concerned about,” said Russo.

The night will feature five 30-minute solo performances, with each dancer encased in a large Plexiglas box, while their films play on screens nearby. Viewers will be able to move around the space, wearing headphones that play testimony from each performer.

Among the performers is Kayla Farrish, who performed at the intersection of Eastern Parkway and Classon Avenue in Crown Heights, where a noose was found last September. Another, Molly Griffin, performed on a Brooklyn-bound Q train crossing the Manhattan bridge, where a 24-year-old lesbian woman was beaten unconscious last year, according to Russo.

The deep red color of the dancer’s skin and hair definitely drew attention, said Russo, but it was intended to highlight a common humanity that transcends skin color.

“We wanted to strip the body bare and comment on the absurdity of how inflamed society is getting in regards to pre-existing racial tensions,” she said.

Many jaded New Yorkers simply walked past the performers, or stopped to stare at the spectacle, but Russo hopes the event will remind viewers that they are more alike than they are different.

“People have gotten desensitized from being compassionate,” she said. “We felt compelled to produce a collective response.”

Russo’s Performance Project will donate 10 percent of proceeds from the show to the New York Civil Liberties Union.

“Sentinel” at the Brooklyn Historical Society (128 Pierrepont St. at Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights, www.drpp.nyc/sentinel). Sept. 14 at 8 pm. $20 ($15 in advance).

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcsh[email protected]nglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.