Next spring, the new arts center known as the Shed will open by Hudson Yards. Through May 13 of this spring, Shed chairman Dan Doctoroff and artistic director and CEO Alex Poots are presenting “A Prelude to the Shed,” a wide-ranging amuse-bouche consisting of live dance and music, panel discussions, an architecture exhibit, and an experimental course for students, all held in and around a transformable venue in an undeveloped lot at Tenth Ave. and West Thirty-First St., designed by architect Kunlé Adeyemi of NLÉ Works and Berlin-based conceptual artist Tino Sehgal. Around the structure are tall, comfortable seats built into all four sides. The centerpiece of “Prelude” is Sehgal’s This variation, which interacts with choreographer William Forsythe’s Pas de Deux Cent Douze, a reimagining of the main duet from his 1987 ballet In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated. The show begins every afternoon at one o’clock and continues into the early evening. You enter the space into almost complete darkness, but don’t let that stop you from moving forward. Just shuffle slowly, hands out, reacting to the movement and sounds of Sehgal’s performers, who will be able to see you and avoid any collisions. There are tiny slits of light, and your eyes will eventually adjust, first picking out silhouetted figures, then recognizing them as flesh-and-blood people.
The cast includes Margherita D’Adamo, Descha Daemgen, Sandhya Daemgen, Jule Flierl, Roderick George, Michael Helland, Louise Höjer, Nikima Jagudajev, Josh Johnson, Leah Katz, just in F. Kennedy, Stuart Meyers, Thomas Proksch, Claire Vivianne Sobottke, and Andros Zins-Brown, many of whom have performed This variation in one of its previous incarnations, dating back to Documenta 13 at Kassel in 2012. They sing familiar songs and emit various sounds and utterances as they jump and move across the room. The audience can sit on the floor, lean against a wall, or move about carefully. However, after a while, the east wall is pushed out and turned around, opening the area to the rest of the city, allowing light to come pouring in and giving prime views to the men, women, and children who had been seated on the big chairs outside (and who kept sitting on them as the walls were moved). George and Johnson then join together for the Forsythe duet on this new indoor-outdoor stage; however, the afternoon we were there, Johnson was absent, so George performed a lovely solo, improvising while maintaining Forsythe’s choreographic language for two dancers, followed by a gorgeous piece sung by D’Adamo as she and George interacted. The space is eventually closed up and it starts all over again, each performance unique. More free tickets have just been released, but walk-ins are welcome as long as there is room.