Friday, November 13, 2009

MultiShow: Undercurrents & Exchange

MultiShow: Undercurrents & Exchange from Third Rail Projects on Vimeo.
This is a segment from a Brazilian TV show which focused an episode on site-specific performances in New York City. "Undercurrents & Exchange" by Zach Morris and Tom Pearson was featured as part of this program which aired in April 2009.

Undercurrents & Exchange was a month-long engagement with the employees and visitors of the World Financial Center. During February 2009, artists presented a new dance every workday during the lunch hour, unearthing the hidden, interpersonal undercurrents of our daily routines. Each short dance was a world unto itself but also accumulated meaning over the course of the month as the performances revealed the often veiled, but perpetually possible connections within the transitional spaces of the Winter Garden.

arts> World Financial Center presented Undercurrents & Exchange by Zach Morris & Tom Pearson, also featuring choreography by Marissa Nielsen-Pincus and Tara O'Con, with art installations by Zach Morris

Performed by Morris, Pearson, Nielsen-Pincus, and O'Con with Donna Ahmadi, Kris Bauman, Elizabeth Carena, Mayuna Shimizu, and other surprise guest artists.

Friday, October 30, 2009

We're Open!!!!!!!

Elizabeth Carena; photo by Darla Winn

So...The Steampunk Haunted House opened on Wednesday and the response has been overwhelmingly positive!!!

After talking to many, many tour groups that have come through, the biggest "complaint" was they wished they could've spent much, much more time to explore and look at all of the detail. People have been raving about it.

Great responses from press too!
If you haven't check out the slideshow on MSNBC

We've already sold out some timeslots for If you wanna come BUY TICKETS NOW!!

And, Finally...Halloween is in ONE DAY! if you are strapped for ideas/and or need a costume, bounce over to Halloween Adventure/NY Costumes (the nice folks who sponsored the haunted house and helped it be what it is) Amazing selection...and even some steampunky goodness! Check 'em out!

Checklist of Things That Are Scary:

A creepy, century-old building—Check.

A playhouse that is possibly already haunted—Check.

Boiler rooms—Check.

Steam pipes—Check.

Hundred-year-old pully-operated creaking metal doors—Check.

Dank cellars—Check.

Labyrinthine hallways—Check.

Victorian parlors—Check.

Twitching multi-eyed things—Check.


Droves of inhuman beasties —Check.

Antiquated mechanisms—Check.

Lots and lots of darkness—Check.

Things that jump out at you in said darkness—Check.

Creepy thing in corner with teeth—Check.

Wicked-cool, eerie soundscape—Check.

Big, big men who chase you—Check.

Little tiny rooms that we lock you in—Check.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Half a Week Away

We are roughly half a week away from our opening night, and I’m thrilled at how the Haunted House is coming together. The artists and collaborators on this project have continued to floor me with their vision, talent, and penchant for creating exquisite and horrible scenarios.

photo by Chad Heird

From its inception, I wanted the Haunted House to be as dense, saturated, and startling as a bad dream. An immersive world that you can’t ever quite see the edges of. The combination downtown installation and performance artists - whose work walks that fine line between the unsettling and the sumptuous - and a team of ridiculously talented performers and collaborators has created a sprawling, fully designed experience chock-full of terrifying, stunning scenes and settings.

I am amazed at what they have done.

In rehearsals I feel like I’m in a beautiful nightmare.

Our fantastic team of collaborators includes: Nikki Berger, Elizabeth Carena, Andrea Dohar, Colleen Ehrlich, Geoffrey A. Ehrlich, Arianne Gallagher, Andres Gonzalez, Jesse Green, Kat Green, Chad Heird, Natalia Johnson, Russell Kaplan, Sara Kipp, Marissa Marshall, Dan Meltz, Zach Morris, Meiko & the Light Module, Marissa Nielsen-Pincus, Liz Sargent, Brigid C Scruggs, Debra Stunich, Ava Szilagi, Phebe Taylor, Matthew Wagner, Carlton Ward, Barry Weil, Kryssy Wright, and the utterly rockstar ensemble from Abrons Urban Youth Theater.

...stretches of desolate hallways, claustrophobic encounters with shifting forms, hidden menaces, parlors of monstrosities, gear powered mechanisms, rooms full of creeping, inhuman beings, and mobs of slowly encroaching horrors...

Dude, I'm so stoked


Monday, October 19, 2009

The Making of the Steampunk Haunted House

(photos by Liz Sargent & Zach Morris)

Hey all! We thought we'd give you a sneak peak at the making of the Steampunk Haunted House. Following are some behind-the-scenes shots of the costuming process.

Costume Designer Colleen Ehrlich and Marissa Nielsen-Pincus laying out costumes for various sections of the House

Gloves, cuffs, hats, metal-y bits, odds and ends that were the basic elements that we started with.

...and here's an example of what that all turned into...

photo by Chad Heird

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Trailer for Steampunk Haunted House

Steampunk Haunted House Trailer from Third Rail Projects on Vimeo.
October 28, 29, 30, 31
at the Abrons Art Center
For more info and tickets visit

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Steampunk Haunted House

Created by Zach Morris/Third Rail Projects

photo by Chad Heird

Enter an immersive world of churning gears, mechanical monstrosities, and steam-powered cyborgs in New York’s newest haunted house. Created by contemporary performance and installation artists, the Steampunk Haunted House sprawls throughout the Abron's century-old Playhouse for a terrifying, visually stunning experience.

Conceived and created by Bessie Award-winner Zach Morris, with Elizabeth Carena, Jesse Green, Marissa Nielsen-Pincus, Liz Sargent, Brigid C. Scruggs, Barry Weil, Kryssy Wright, and featuring members of Abrons' Urban Youth Theater

Tours run:
Wednesday, Oct 28th & Thursday, Oct 29th
Admission: $20 (Students $10)*

Friday, October 30th & Saturday, Oct 31st
Admission $25 (Students $10)*

*No one under 8 years old admitted

Henry Street Settlement/Abrons Arts Center
466 Grand Street (at Pitt Street), New York, NY
Steampunk: an underground style and aesthetic that is rapidly becoming one of the most popular trends in entertainment, fashion, and culture. Steampunk offers a fresh, romanticized view on technology and fashion by making it retro, usually set in an alternate, anachronistic Victorian-era.

The Steampunk Haunted House is a distinctive, fine-art and entertainment event that puts a new spin on the idea of Haunted Houses by fashioning a lush, visually stunning, fiercely designed and choreographed experience.

Utilizing the architecture of the historic Henry Street Settlement Playhouse, the Steampunk Haunted House features a maze of dense and dizzying environments that wind through the beautiful theater, backstage, and down into the cavernous and dungeon-like basement of the turn of the century building. Groups of 6-10 people are incrementally admitted into this labrynthine environment where Zach Morris, along with fellow installation/performance artists Liz Sargent and Barry Weil terrify audiences with clockwork spiders, legions of half-man/half-machine drones, and mechanized monsters and misfits. Through eerie parlors, laboratories, boiler rooms, and navigating dark, narrow hallways, corridors, and caverns, the audience is met with startling, stunning terrors around every turn.

Like most attractions of it’s kind, this Is roughly a twenty-minute experience.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Vanishing Point, Live at the Gantries

Tom Pearson & Zach Morris
with Kris Bauman & The Dang-It Bobbys

Live at The Gantries will present excerpts from Tom Pearson & Zach Morris's Bessie Award-winning work Vanishing Point (2008), featuring original music by Kris Bauman, played live by The Dang-It Bobbys on Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 7pm as part of their summer performance series in Queens.

"the dance equivalent of a peaceful, ruminative discussion with a few close friends, drinks in hand" – Roslyn Sulcas, The New York Times

Read more about Vanishing Point.
 Queens, NY – The Live at the Gantries summer performance series returns with a celebrated and diverse roster including Bessie-awarded site-specific choreographers Zach Morris and Tom Pearson of Third Rail Projects and legendary street brass marchers, the Hungry March Band.

or the second straight year East River oasis Gantry Plaza State Park will host 10 free performances. The series kicks-off Sunday, June 14th with the Hungry March Band then returns on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. from June 23rd through August 26. The rich array of performers ranges from the rhythmic Latin jazz of Afrodita to the eclectic drama of Chinese Theatre Works. Read the Press Release.

A Program of New York State Parks, Queens Theatre in the Park and Queens Council on the Arts, Sponsored by Rockrose Development Corp. With support from Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, O’Connor Capital Partners, Con Edison 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mesa 2.0 at La MaMa and NMAI

This weekend and in June
Tom Pearson, Louis Mofsie, & Donna Ahmadi
perform their newest collaboration, MESA 2.0, for La MaMa Moves! Dance Festival and at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York. 

See Performance Dates and Details Below
"Ideas of home, heritage, ceremony, and tradition, as seen through the eyes of some urban Indians from New York City visiting the American Southwest" – Native Peoples Magazine

Created and performed by Tom Pearson (Creek/Coharie), Louis Mofsie(Hopi/Winnebago), and Donna Ahmadi (Cherokee), this contemporary dance was borne from shared travels in the Southwest and examines what it means to be urban Indians, specifically New Yorkers. Ideas of home, ceremony, and tradition share the stage with the multiple sounds and images of three people walking together in two worlds.
Mesa 2.0 is supported, in part, by a Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian 2008 Expressive Arts Award made possible by the Ford Foundation; by the Live Music for Dance Program of the American Music Center; and by Third Rail Projects, with support from individual and institutional donors.
At LaMaMa E.T.C.:
La MaMa Moves! Dance Festival
Mesa 2.0 by Tom Pearson, Louis Mofsie, & Donna Ahmadi
on a shared program with with Monstah Black & Nicholas Leichter
HIJACK/Kristen Van Loon & Arwen Wilder
May 22-23 (Fri & Sat) at 10pm;
May 24 (Sun) at 5:30pm
The Club at La MaMa
4A East 4th St. NY, NY 10003

Tickets $15/$10 Seniors & Students
Purchase tickets online
Box Office:212.475.7710
Or visit LaMaMa's website for tickets and further information on festival

At the National Museum of the American Indian
NMAI Dance presents Mesa 2.0
Thursday, June 4, 2009, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 6, 2009, 2 p.m.
The George Gustav Heye Center
Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House
One Bowling Green
New York, NY 10004
Visit NMAI's Website

Friday, March 20, 2009

"Undercurrents" featured on WNYC's Studio 360

Visit the PRI/WNYC 
Studio 360 Blog for feature: "Undercurrents Wins us Over" by Josie Holtzman.

Pictured above: Zach Morris & Tara O'Con; photo by Chad Heird

Saturday, March 14, 2009

"Undercurrents & Exchange" Displays by Zach Morris

posted by Third Rail Projects

The following video is approximately 10 minutes in length.  If you encounter a blank screen, or the video doesn't seem to progress, try reloading or refreshing your browser. Otherwise, depending on the speed of your connection, you may need to be patient while video loads.

The above slide show follows the evolution of the displays which accompanied performances of Undercurrents & Exchange in February 2009. In conjunction with the performances, dioramas created by Zach Morris, housed in vitrines throughout the WFC, highlighted the complicated web of historical, cultural, environmental and social facets that make the complex what it is. Each vitrine was divided into four 'scenes,' creating playful, evolving stories that visually reiterated the theme: That seemingly isolated and disconnected elements have the possibility to connect in fantastical and dream-like ways.

Archaeopteryx replica featured in the "Archaeopteryx Display" created by Barry Weil.

Friday, March 13, 2009

It Worked?

posted by Zach Morris

It’s been a couple of weeks now since we finished Undercurrents & Exchange
. Normally about this time, I’m in the throes of mild post-partum depression, having poured myself into a piece that, after some brief strutting and fretting, has disappeared. I’m not experiencing that this time around.

Maybe it’s because we had a full month to live inside a structure that we created. Or maybe it’s just because my body is thanking me for not making it roll up and down that marble staircase anymore. But I suspect that it has more to do with what happened to me and to the project over the course of this process.

I have to admit, this piece was borne a little out of skepticism and doubt on my part…

About three years ago, we submitted the proposal for this project to The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, framed as both a performance and an experiment to see if public art could actually make a substantial, noticeable impact on a space that it inhabited.

This wasn’t simply a matter for curiosity for me. I’d been making site-work for a couple years at this point, drawn to the idea of bringing art out of the art-house and into the public sphere. I’d hoped that this type of work might get me closer to what I’m interested in as an artist – namely finding ways to integrate art more into the fabric of our daily lives. I’ve come to believe that art, and dance in particular, is one of the few ways that we’re able to begin approaching the ineffable. For me, it’s a way to begin to understand the aspects of our lives that are so complex, so contradictory, so multi-faceted and layered that we simply can’t express them using the devices of normal communication.

Anyway, the point is, I thought that this was important to get out into the world. Especially in a society so obsessed with quantifying and rationalizing everything. I wasn’t interested in preaching, or “converting” anyone, or even to making any sort of profound statement. I was just interested in putting it out there as another, alternate way of expressing and understanding our crazy lives.

So when we proposed this project, I wanted to know if any of this actually held water. If the presence of public art was actually something that could tangibly effect a space and its inhabitants. Or, was I just being a rather pompous artist, assuming my little dances were making an impact when, in fact, they might not be.

I’m tremendously happy to say that we certainly did something. What that was, I’m not rightly sure. But over the course of February, something changed in the Winter Garden.

I can’t quantify the success of this project. But I know its there. Small observations and interactions lead me to believe that over the month people not only noticed us, they began to recognize us, and even anticipate our daily appearances:

On our first day, when Marissa came flopping toward me as the mermaid, our performance was met with a decidedly chilly response. However, when we repeated the exact same thing as part of a longer piece two weeks later, people stopped, smiling. We overheard them saying “Oh there she is”, “ That’s the mermaid”. They followed her progress as she wriggled up to perch next to me. They stayed and watched the dance until I eventually carried her up the escalator out of the garden.

Every day, we noticed that the number of people who stopped and watched slightly increased. As the weeks went on, whole groups would stop and watch, forming a perimeter around the performances. And at the end of these dances, we were often met with applause from all sides. A marked change from the nervous smatterings we’d gotten in the first week.

We began to recognize repeat visitors. We know of a couple WFC workers came to see every single performance.

On Friday of the third week as I walked to my starting position, I passed a group of people. I heard them whisper, “There’s the dancer.” They then moved to get better view.

During one of our evening rehearsals, one of the guards walked up to Marissa, Tara, and I. She wagged a finger at both of them. “Which one of you is the Mermaid?” she asked suspiciously. Marissa indicated that she was. “Why did you steal the chocolate?” the guard asked with a grin, referencing one of the videos we’d put up on the Garden’s plasma screens. Likewise, other guards would pull visitors aside during these night rehearsals and tell them about us, about the mermaid, and especially her proclivity for candy stealing.

On the final week, Tom was preparing to film the daily dance from the balcony near the entrance to the AMEX tower. As the piece was about to begin, a slew of people came down from the tower and stood watching. Over the course of the performance, Tom heard them comparing this dance to other’s they’d seen. One person noted a repeated choreographic pattern that echoed an earlier piece. Others rated this dance next to their favorites. When the dance was done, they went back up to work.

The interesting thing is, we didn’t accomplish any of the things that we sometimes mistakenly equate as hallmarks of success in the business of art making:

Will the people who saw our daily performances seek us out when we have our next gig? Probably not.

Did we get a sudden boost in our individual funders, with new audience members eager to lend support? Not a one.

Will the contemporary dance world see a spike in attendance at performances due to our efforts? I wouldn’t count on it.

Do most of the folks who witnessed a performance have any idea who we are? No. I expect that most of them couldn’t tell you our names.

But none of that is really the point, of what we do is it?

Instead, for a short month I was just the guy in the yellow shirt who showed everyday at 1:00pm and, with his cohorts, kinda torqued reality for a couple minutes. And during that month, some barrier was eased down, just enough that I stopped being the weird artist you avoid, and instead became a person you could approach.

My last interaction at the Winter Garden was when I was standing outside, still in costume, waiting for a final photo to be taken. A man walked up to me:

“I’ve seen your dances. I’ve come to a couple now. What is it that you call that type of dance?”

“Um, Contemporary, I guess.”

“So is this what you do?”

“Yeah. It is. What about you?”

“I work up at AMEX.”

“Oh, cool. How’s that treating you?”

“Good. Good.” He stubbed out his cigarette. “Well. I should go back to work.”

“Yeah, me too.”

“Well thank you.”

“Thank you. And thanks for stopping to talk.”

“Ok. I’ll see you.”

“Alright. I’ll see you.”

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Re-Choreographing the Day Through a Camera Lens

posted by Tom Pearson

Afforded a couple of week's of hindsight, I think I can finally start to get at some of the finer points of how the process and resulting performances of Undercurrents & Exchange have affected me. Marissa, Tara, and Zach have done a great job of speaking to our concerns and responses during the perpetual
cycle of rehearsing and performing daily on site. And though I shared choreographic responsibility with them and engaged in the same creative process, in many ways I felt very much outside of the work, filming and editing each day's performance for broadcast on our blog.I know that filming every day and sharing the videos has been a really great way for us to connect with audiences all over the world, and many have expressed their excitement at being able to follow along on this project. And, by the way, a big "thank you" to everyone who has followed this process and left their responses. The idea of doing work in the public sphere, free performances that put art into everyday spaces seems to naturally extend to the public space of the internet. And the same rules often apply. It was my job throughout the month to translate our daily performances and experiences for our blog and post them as quickly as possible to allow internet audiences to follow us day-by-day.

But, I also now wonder if my presence with the camera affected audiences reactions there on site?

Zach was the live link, unifying all the daily dances with his business man persona, and I was the behind the scenes counterpart with my nose in the camera each day. I wonder if the folks that began to recognize the performers through repetitive exposure also began to follow my daily presence, setting out the signs to announce that we were filming (a legal necessity), setting up the camera, filming, and then disappearing after? And though we have largely left this aspect unacknowledged as a daily fact of the performances, it must have also lent some sort of notoriety to the event, very similar to the way the photographers in Hong Kong did when we performed Strangers on Tong Chong Street. Just the fact that a camera comes into the space says something about the import of what is about to happen.

It became a beacon too, I think, for many of the repeat visitors who would seek me out to find the "best" place from which to watch the performance. In fact, I often I had a small group that would form around me to watch from my vantage point. So, I was careful not to telegraph too much, to wait and allow the performers to infiltrate the space, invisibly, and then emerge on their own terms. It was tricky sometimes. On occasion, I would shoot my B-roll for the day – the ceiling, the floor, the audience, some highlight of the space – sometimes in a deliberate attempt to scatter the focus so people couldn't lock into where they thought the performance was going to occur. My little pre-performance dance became a daily ritual too, I guess.

But as a choreographer and a performer, I began to feel little pangs later in the process. I was always watching my own work and the work of my collaborators through a camera lens, and I just wanted to be able to lift my head and see the larger picture, to feel the total energy of the space. That did not happen much for me, except at night when setting the next day's dance, anticipating how the choices I made in the relatively empty space at night would transform during the lunch-hour frenzy. And sometimes I really missed the feeling of performing. Though, again as a choreographer, I was afforded a sweet relationship to the material that was unique to me alone, the ability to revisit each day's footage as I edited it for the blog.

In a way, I became intimate with each choreographer's work as I "re-choreographed" it for life on film. Owing to the different nature of the medium, I had to make certain choices and edits to ensure I captured the true spirit of the day's work. What feels one way in a live situation does not often translate into film; and therefore, it's vital that accommodations are made, that close-ups, pans, and clips to simultaneous actions occur in order to accurately convey the intentions of the live work. In those late hours of editing and posting to our blog, my thumbprint was suddenly on everything. It made for very long days, and a very long month, but I think that the documentation of this process as well as the ability to share the performances worldwide on a daily basis, has been a crucial part of the mission for this work: to get it out of the small spaces and open it up to the public, to make offerings of art, make it available, and surprise people with how much there is to actually see in our everyday lives and our everyday spaces.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Full-Time Artist, Full-Time Job

posted by Tara O'Con

The funny thing is, I thought my time at the World Financial Center's Winter Garden would be easy, breezy, and not too time consuming. A fun little extra gig on the side with my fellow Third Rail artists. It soon became clear that I was wrong. The immediate cause-and-effect nature of our performances led us into a sort of real-time art making process. Each day was full of new information from our responses, both personal and critical, to the ever-changing dynamic of the Winter Garden. This constant information feed manifested a rehearsal process like I have never engaged in before. Most often, I am involved with projects that focus on drawing out one set of ideas over a long period of time that culminates into a performance. However, for Undercurrents & Exchange, each day's experience was in some way folded in and immediately turned around for the thought process and motivations behind the creation of the next day's experience.

Thus, we entered into a delicate balance of a) of time management, planning ahead to allow adequate rehearsal time for each performance; and b) allowing the fresh sense of immediacy to infiltrate each performance in a way that energized the space with a genuinely new dance every day and yet directly derived from all of the previously accumulated experiences.
Hmm ,what does this way of working remind me of?
Ah ha! A job! How stimulating!

For the month of February, I worked as a full-time artist for one project, with a daily routine, a work schedule of performances, rehearsals, and meetings, making decisions based on both in-the moment scenarios and forecasted events. It was my full-time job, the set of responsibilities and agendas that I commuted daily into Manhattan from Brooklyn to carry out.

Why are such stable, concrete platforms for creativity and alternative routines of interpersonal exchange within society so few and far between? Even more curious, how come it took me a five weeks to figure out this was actually a new way for me to work, even though I do consider myself a full-time artist?

At Ease: Getting Comfortable On Site

posted by Marissa Nielsen-Pincus

Toward the end of our first week of Undercurrents & Exchange, I got a call from Zach one afternoon saying he had some bad news. I had, so far, only been involved in the first day’s performance where I, as a mermaid, had flopped though the palms and up the stairs to meet Zach, the businessman. That first day, we had met a chilly response from our audience, who seemed uncomfortable with not knowing the how, when, where and why of what we were doing.

When Zach called with the "bad news" and before he had a chance to share, it flashed through my mind that perhaps there had been too many complaints about us disturbing peoples' lunchtime, and Undercurrents and Exchange was being canceled. This was, of course, not the case. The problem was a logistical issue that was soon solved. But thinking back to that first week and my response to Zach’s call, I realize how far we came in the month, both in terms of our own comfort in the space, and the comfort of our audience, who accepted and enjoyed our presence in the Winter Garden by the end.

Even before we began performing, my visits to the WFC and our early rehearsals were filled with a tentativeness. We would arrive around 7pm, right as they dimmed the lights in the Winter Garden. We would look around, talk about the space, try out little bits of ideas and choreography on the stairs or on the benches, but it felt as if we were afraid of breaking something, or getting caught, or being seen, even though we had full permission to be there. It didn’t feel like a safe space to experiment in. It wasn’t ours yet.

One of those evenings when we were rehearsing for the first day’s performance, I put on the mermaid tail and began to flop though the palms. I was almost immediately stopped by a worried guard who told me, "It’s against the rules to roll on the floor. God forbid you hit something and crack your head open, or God forbid you trip someone else and they crack their head open.” Clearly, it wasn’t just us who were uncomfortable with our presence in the space.

But through the month of February, we DID become comfortable.

Maybe it was the amount of time we began spending there. . .

I agree with what Tara wrote in her earlier blog entry: the WFC is a little city of its own. Once you enter you don’t have to leave. You can eat lunch, get coffee, buy clothes, buy toys. There is a drug store, Japanese, Mexican, and Chinese restaurants, places to eat, sit, walk, flowers and chocolates to buy. There is really no reason to leave the complex. So, in our long days of rehearsing, performing, and more rehearsing, we began to live there, eat there, nap there, work there. We became inhabitants of the space, using it like everyone else who works there. We were no longer outsiders.

But in addition to the time spent there, something else shifted on the Friday of the first week.

Baby Jane Dexter, a well known Jazz singer, and her trio were scheduled to perform that day at lunchtime, and Zach and I were going to slip in during her set and dance to one of her songs. We rode down the escalators on opposite sides, ducked under the stantions, and met in the middle. We then danced in a roped-off area in front of the band, with a big audience seated in chairs in front of us, an audience that warmly applauded when we finished. It felt strangely successful, even though in many ways it was the opposite of what we had intended to do in this project, to have an audience seated in chairs set up for a "Performance" and to dance in a roped-off area. That is not our idea of performing in public spaces.

But our audience had been comfortable, and because they were comfortable, they enjoyed us. In our discussion afterwards, we were able to verbalize what now felt like our real job for the month. There are tactics we can use as performers that allow the audience to "understand" that we are there for their enjoyment, hooks that draw the audience to us and help to familiarize us to them... and that serves to make them comfortable with our presence and put them at ease. Our job was to experiment with different combinations of these hooks, to play with how few we could use without losing our audience, and to discover how many we needed to keep them traveling with us: loud music, creating recognizable characters, dressing the same daily, playing our images and video shorts in the space all day long, building choreographic themes that developed throughout the month, dancing in high traffic areas that did not allow us to be ignored, staging large groups that a were also impossible to ignore. These were a few of our discoveries.

By the end of the month, it felt like we could do whatever we wanted and not only get away with it but also be appreciated for what we were doing: rolling on the floor (and it didn’t seem to scare anyone); just walking around (and still be recognizable as performers); dancing without music (and we were still clearly "performing," which hadn’t gone so well our first week); dancing up and down the entire staircase (and forcing all the people to move out of our way without feeling that we were resented by our audience); and performing simple duets that could hold the attention of the entire space (people circled all the way around the entire balcony to watch us).

We reached out to our audience, an odd assembly of people who are not accustomed to seeing dance not on a formal stage. And they eventually followed us. And accepted our quirky offerings. And enjoyed them.

I am left with a feeling that somehow in sharing our vocabularies we ended up with a strange amalgamated language of corporate culture and contemporary dance/performance/ art/ spectacle that we all could speak and feel at ease with. And somehow, this language feels almost radical, like we snuck into the World Financial Center and sprinkled a little counter culture into this corporate world, and it stuck.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Undercurrents & Exchange: Week #4 Photos

posted by Third Rail Projects

Week #4 (Feb. 23-27, 2009) photos from Undercurrents & Exchange
Photos courtesy of arts>World Financial Center.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Undercurrents & Exchange: Performance #20

posted by Third Rail Projects

Above is an excerpt from Performance #20 of Undercurrents and Exchange, presented by arts World Financial Center, Friday, February 27 at 1pm in the World Financial Center Winter Garden. Day #20 is created by Zach Morris & Tom Pearson and performed by Zach Morris, Marissa Nielsen-Pincus, Tara O'Con, Mayuna Shimizu, Nikki Berger, J Day, Arianne Gallagher, Zoe Scheiber, and Matthew Wagner. Music by Kris Bauman.

Read more about the project in previous blog entries or visit:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Undercurrents & Exchange: Performance #19

posted by Third Rail Projects

Above is an excerpt from Performance #19 of Undercurrents and Exchange, presented by arts>World Financial Center, Thursday, February 26 at 1pm in the World Financial Center Winter Garden. Day #19 is created by Tara O'Con and performed by Zach Morris and Marissa Nielsen-Pincus with Nikki Berger, Arianne Gallagher, and Matthew Wagner.

Read more about the project in previous blog entries or visit:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Undercurrents & Exchange: Performance #18

posted by Third Rail Projects

Above is an excerpt from Performance #18 of Undercurrents and Exchange, presented by arts>World Financial Center, Wednesday, February 25 at 1pm in the World Financial Center Winter Garden. Day #18 is created by Tom Pearson and performed by Zach Morris, Mayuna Shimizu, Tara O'Con, Marissa Nielsen-Pincus, April Biggs, J Day, Tori Sparks, and Matthew Wagner. Music is by Mark DeNardo:

Read more about the project in previous blog entries or visit:

Undercurrents Video Shorts Set #2

posted by Third Rail Projects

In addition to three evolving art installations and short (5-10 min) live performances each work day of February 2009 at the World Financial Winter Garden, these video shorts are also featured for the entire month on WFC plasma screens located throughout the Winter Garden. These short videos add another layer of meaning and tie together various elements from the live performances and the installations, furthering narratives and reiterating themes.

This set of video shorts was created by Zach Morris, Elizabeth Carena, and Marissa Nielsen-Pincus.  Part of Undercurrents & Exchange. More info at:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Undercurrents & Exchange: Performance #17

posted by Third Rail Projects

Above is an excerpt from Performance #17 of Undercurrents and Exchange, presented by arts>World Financial Center, Tuesday, February 24 at 1pm in the World Financial Center Winter Garden. Day #17 is created by Marissa Nielsen-Pincus and performed by Zach Morris and Tara O'Con.

Read more about the project in previous blog entries or visit

Monday, February 23, 2009

Undercurrents & Exchange: Performance #16

posted by Third Rail Projects

Above is an excerpt from Performance #16 of Undercurrents and Exchange, presented by arts>World Financial Center, Monday, February 23 at 1pm in the World Financial Center Winter Garden. Day #16 is created and performed by Zach Morris and Marissa Nielsen-Pincus.

Read more about the project in previous blog entries or visit

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Undercurrents: Daily Choices

posted by Tom Pearson

Friday's dance from Undercurrents and Exchange utilized the plasma screen by the North Corridor and linked the video component of our work to the daily live presentations. We discovered that putting a dance near the area of highest traffic (the corridor leads to the food court), but without blocking the way, we forced people to make a choice, to either stop or to keep walking. But, there was no ignoring the fact of the performance you had to walk through.

As you'll see in the video, many folks did continue briskly on, sometimes self-consciously, between the camera and performance. But what you don't see is the large crescent of audience members who formed, at a safe distance, in front of Zach and the screen.

Something about the localized activity near the most interstitial of spaces in the Winter Garden allowed them to hit the pause button on their fast forwards. I would postulate that several other hooks grabbed their attention as well: the use of multi-media, the upbeat and funky electronic score by Kris Bauman, and the hip-hop echoes in the movement. These components are the right combination of the familiar and extraordinary that made some re-negotiate their propensity for dismissive-ness. Though as Marissa said a week or so back, it's nice to figure out all the hooks we can give people for any given piece and then try to get away with using as few as possible.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Undercurrents & Exchange: Week #3 Photos

posted by Third Rail Projects

Week #3 (Feb. 16-20, 2009) photos from Undercurrents & Exchange
Photos courtesy of arts>World Financial Center and Chad Heird.

Undercurrents & Exchange: Performance #15

posted by Third Rail Projects

Above is an excerpt from Performance #15 of
Undercurrents and Exchange, presented by arts>World Financial Center, Friday, February 20 at 1pm in the World Financial Center Winter Garden. Day #15 is created by Zach Morris with Elizabeth Carena, Marissa Nielsen-Pincus, and Tom Pearson. Music is by Kris Bauman.

Read more about the project in previous blog entries or visit