Dancer and choreographer Ligia Lewis takes her Sensation series outside with the captivating Sensation 1 / This Interior, continuing in the High Line’s Fourteenth Street Passage through July 25. The free show is set in one half of the divided passageway under a building, protecting it from potential rain, and the audience gathers at either of the two ends or lines up against the long, horizontal walls. Over the course of sixty minutes, Trinity Bobo, Emma Cohen, Rebecca Gual, Miguel Ángel Guzmán, Stephanie Peña, and Jumatatu M. Poe slowly walk into the space one at a time, moving extremely slowly as they head to spots marked on the ground by a pink “X.” When they reach their destination, they stay there for an extended period of time, their feet firmly planted on the ground as their bodies convulse, their hands reach out, and their faces contort into silent screams, set to an electronic score by Twin Shadow (aka George Lewis Jr., Lygia’s brother) that begins as noise, then incorporates words and phrases before transforming into a song.
To best experience the powerful performance — admission is free with advance RSVP — attendees are strongly encouraged to walk throughout the area, weaving around the dancers and making direct eye contact; it is like a sculpture garden where the statues have come to life, moving in agonizing, yearning ways. (Of course, the High Line is itself a sculpture garden, its 1.4-mile length filled with changing site-specific artworks.) Very few audience members, however, took advantage of that opportunity on opening night; after the show, I spoke with several of the dancers, who said they want the people to walk around them in the shared space, to become part of what is happening together. The Dominican-born, Berlin-based Lewis, who has recently completed a trilogy consisting of Sorrow Swag (2014), minor matter (2016), and Water Will (in Melody) (2018), rightfully calls this outdoor piece Interior, as it delves deep into what’s inside all of us, and needs to get out.