“When the Sea Rises” was a collaboration between Harmattan Theater, martial arts performers and trance performers from Kerala, South India. I worked with a group of Kalaripayatti performers I used to train with, and collaborated with three Theyyem performers
to create what I saw as a dream sequence purging the now forgotten medieval history of the Fort Cochin seawall that winds its way down the bay into the open sea. The wonderfully gifted Muthu Muzhi and the divine performers Midhilesh, Similesh, Akhilesh, and Manish transformed this ancient sea wall into a powerful encounter between humans and the sea.
Performance at Tribute Park, Beach 116, Rockaway Park, October 2013.
Beach 116 is a street that was completely washed away by Hurricane Sandy. Its residents suffered much hardship and misery. Harmattan Theater produced Far Rockaway in collaboration with the community of Beach 116. This piece is a celebration of the street’s revival.
New York City is a refuge city. It is a city that has seen different sorts of displacements and always been a hospitable place for the displaced. With Hurricane Sandy, New Yorkers transformed the city into a refuge city, opening their homes, couches, and offices to friends and strangers, providing convivial help where ever possible, at the junction of traffic light stops where the lights had stopped working, at corners of streets where stranded tourists sought directions, and at home where old acquaintances called seeking a safe bed for the night.
New York is a refuge city in ethos. It is a city that understands that disaster is a shared communal burden. How New Yorkers cope with large disasters never stops to impress.
The last 72 hours leading towards Hurricane Sandy hitting New York City, was a scene of chaos and national unpreparedness. 2.8 million people without power in New York City, hospitals in New York whose back up generators did not work, inadequate attention paid to Storm surge warnings by the Atlantic City mayor, over 10,000 flights cancelled with many more cancellations to follow, leaving travellers in stranded disarray. Many things that could have been more efficiently managed, were not adequately attended to. The scale of the black out in New York along with the extensive water damage, leaves New York in a place of reinvention once again. The sea is a central component to New York’s future. We are not ready to deal with the scale of water management required to secure New York’s extensive shoreline. How the city recovers from this devastating disruption to its public transportation networks and its low lying neighborhoods will tell us how far we have come since Robert Moses’s city designed for the car, cutting New York’s residents from its spectacular shores. The sea now comes to the city, demanding we engage with its shifting rhythms.
New York City cut off from the rest of New York- Manhattan’s island-ness is once again made prominent. Over 14 inches of water in Battery Park City, all of New York City ravaged and made vulnerable. Subways flooded. Downtown Manhattan without power. Island City’s like Manhattan have to deal with their island-ness with greater ecological awareness than has been given the island’s coastline historically. Will Hurricane Sandy reshape how we imagine our future as an island city?
Harmattan Theater, Mar Portugues, Da Gama’s Last Dream.
Terreiro Do Paco, Lisbon, Portugal
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