Review: Bryant Park Modern Dance


A few weeks ago I decided to change things up a bit. My mother, who used to be a dancer, convinced me to check out the free modern dance series in Bryant Park. Even though I was not able to stay for the entire performance featuring so many great dance companies, I was able to catch the first set of the night from Manuel Vignoulle Dance, “Shifting Shadow.” The dance’s story was to show the struggle of a man who is afraid of his own shadow. It was fascinating!

On an unbelievably hot Friday evening, I left my midtown office and walked down to Bryant Park. Already the entire Bryant Park Lawn was packed with people. Many of which were sitting in chairs laid out in a semi circle in front of the stage. However, the sunshine brought out those people who wanted to relax and enjoy the show on blankets. In fact, many were having picnic dinners with the family to start off the weekend right. That’s what I love about free art in parks, people come out of the woodwork to catch it all. Eventually the announcers walked up on stage to introduce the evening’s entertainment. Their sound system was so low I could not hear what they were saying. Despite the lack of sound, most of the families having dinner did not pay any notice. They were completely content with their moment of merriness supported by food and drinks.

After the introductions were made, the show was set to begin. Two men walked on stage and took their shirts off. These dancing men were almost naked save for a garment over their privates. “Shifting Shadow” starts off in a slow walk of the clock. Each of the men kept looking at each other and to the ground as the walked in the clockwise motion. Suddenly, their bodies began pulsing in and out. Both men were somehow connected and reacted together. There was a sense of mimicry and symmetry about their movements. Throughout the show there were moments where they were swimming in the air. Much dance started slow and steadily started to grow fast as it went on.

Moments where they were both lying on the ground looked liked they were bowing in prayer. It was at this time when I realized that the performance resembled Sergei Polunin’s choreography of Hozier’s Take Me To Church. All of the slow moments were absorbed into the ground. As the performance grew, there were lots of spinning and twirling in unison with the two men. I sensed there was a fight of passionate love going on within, or even a desire for separation. The men were coupled and intertwined with this scuffle. Each even carried each other at some point as they paused in pose. Instances of lethargic movements suddenly unleashed into seizure-like events. At this point of the show, I could finally hear the music, which had a theme of a techno dance party around it. The two men looked like they were club dancing on the stage too. One of the men began holding onto the other, begging to stay. There was joyful reaction and praise. Both men were carrying the weight of the other. They wanted each other but could not stay together. It was a wonderful show and was very happy to have seen it.

Upon my departure to head over to do another show review downtown, I was very cheerful that I took the time to witness this free event. NYC always manages to surprise me with material like this. On every corner there are unexpected creations that are sobering to the human spirit. Unfortunately, that was the last Bryant Park modern dance show of the summer. You can find the various dance companies online and go see them yourselves; after all, the performances at Bryant Park were simple previews of the magic they have to offer year round. However, the park will still be showing outdoor films until the end of August! So, get out there people, live a little!


Jam On.