As part of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s return to live performance, visitors gathered in a spiral around the rotunda at the Guggenheim on Wednesday night to watch 10 talented performers celebrate the NYC Underground club life of decades past.
Commissioned in 2018 by Works & Process, this performance is part of a series of arts created by Works and Process meant to capture the oral history of NYC club life. This show and the 12 other one-night-only showcases in this series are the product of “quarantine bubble residencies”, in which the artists have safely gathered, rehearsed, and lived together to produce the thirty-minute dance performance we had the chance to experience.
As visitors entered the Guggenheim, they entered into a central floor from which rose the iconic rotunda, with exhibits branching off around it, bathed in an evocative red light projection. After entering through what would become the performance stage, we gathered around the spiral, safely distanced from the floor to the ceiling, letting each attendee experience the performance from a unique angle and distance.
The performance started with each performer in a line at the corner of the stage, reminiscent of a nightclub waiting line. The dancer at the end of the line began moving to the music, a mini solo performance, but then activated the dancer ahead of them in line. In this way, each person had their turn to groove to the music by themselves in their own differentiated way, but it got passed down from person to person in a cheeky and infectious way. After the “line” intro ended, combinations of the dancers performed styles that resembled the robotic, and animalistic dance styles, later moving on to breakdancing and hip hop, and honoring the older performers who highlighted styles of their youth, such as vogueing and recognizable quick footwork.
Through this collective of stories, styles, eras, and memories, UnderScored captured the “ever-changing physical and musical landscape of New York City’s underground dance and music scene”. The dances represented here were inspired by several iconic underground parties of the 1970s and 1980s, including David Mancuso’s the Loft, Larry Levan’s Paradise Garage and Timmy Regisford’s Shelter. The performance’s energy gained new meaning through the cast member’s diversity, with ages ranging from 26-78 years old. Works and Process wanted Wednesday’s performance to “help celebrate and bring back the joy of living in New York”. Everyone in the audience truly felt the energy of that celebration through the performance, as the rhythm of the city slowly hummed back to life around us, and we look forward to a post-pandemic summer and reawakening of the arts scene.