For Malacarne, the World’s a (Moving) Stage
Earlier this month, Malacarne took to the rails, activating the Seattle Center Monorail as a dance floor for expectant watchers and unsuspecting travelers alike. The Center’s new multi-season project, Artists at the Center, will put on pop-up events throughout the year.
View information on Artists at the Center and current schedule here.
Five dancers from Malacarne, choreographer Alice Gosti’s contemporary dance company, were clad in canary yellow jumpsuits and sitting stock-still on chilly Seattle Center Monorail seats, apparently oblivious to the early March cold snap. Each performer stared silently out the window as audience members stuffed into parkas and gloves filed onto the train and squeezed into seats around them.
But not all of us were here for the performance. Monorail ticketholders boarded the cars farthest from the dancers, some looking at their phones or setting children into strollers. This was a normal day at the Seattle Center, with a few local commuters and throngs of tourists riding the 61-year-old conveyance for thrills and views of Downtown Seattle.
Until recently, the Monorail was little more than a tourist trap. For a few bucks, visitors could travel the just-under-one-mile route from Downtown’s Westlake Center to the Seattle Center and admire the Downtown skyline for a few minutes. It was cool but not particularly helpful as a means of public transit until 2019, when locals were granted permission to use their Orca cards to transfer to the Monorail.
And this month, the Monorail added pop-up art.
Artists at the Center, a collaboration between the Seattle Center and Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, dots 2023 with pop-up performances that can be viewed up close with a paid ticket or as a passer-by. Bringing art into the public forum instead of keeping it tucked away behind theatre walls is just what we all need as we emerge from yet another winter of masks, coughs, and lingering COVID-era isolation.
Malacarne’s Monorail performance takes its name from the Sappho poem “The Art of Loving Women,” which reads in part:
You may forget but
let me tell you
this: someone in
some future time
will think of us
What a joy to think of each other as remembered, even in the seemingly invisible world of a workday commute.
Gosti’s work is often site-specific, meaning the performances take place outside of the regular proscenium theater. She has a keen eye for the natural environment and incorporates the day to day movements of people, nature, and city life into her work. There is symbolism in many works of classical and contemporary dance performance, but Gosti makes the symbols memorable, accessible, and sometimes sacred.
As the Monorail moved through the MoPOP tunnel and into Downtown, the dancers moved about the rail car (always holding on to something, safety first!) and into a variety of tableaus. At one point, their arms stretched overhead at odd angles, perhaps matching the groves of trees from a rooftop garden we passed at the same time. Ambient, bass-heavy music from the artist ings pulsed through the Monorail as the performance sped through two round-trip routes from the Seattle Center to Westlake. Some passengers glanced up at the dancers as they entered or exited the cars, some stared and whipped out phones to capture what they could catch through the windows before the Monorail sped off again. But this performance was not something anyone could capture in an Instagram post.
someone in some future time will think of us cast a spell over the Monorail, even as the cars rounded corners and tilted at sometimes nerve-wracking angles.
My companion that afternoon, an architect with a sixth sense for noticing intricate details and patterns, pointed out a cool juxtaposition of the Monorail’s speed and the tempo of the dancing. At the beginning of the ride, the dancers stayed still or barely moving as we passed the static buildings outside. At the other end, the dancers moved quickly, matching the speed and anticipation of the Monorail’s arrival at Westlake. The middle of the ride brought a more even rhythm of movement, sometimes in time to the staccato beat of the Monorail’s wheels against the tracks raised high above the city streets.
The subtle movements of the dancers, their expressionless faces, the light their yellow jumpsuits cast on the gray Seattle day all added up to produce a peaceful calm over the packed rail cars. I kept looking away from the dancers to study the buildings and glimpses of Puget Sound as we passed them by at 45 miles per hour. Always keeping a dancer or two in the corner of my eye, I imagined them as part of my daily commute. What are the stories of the people we encounter every day but who remain anonymous? What if we watched them more closely? What if we are the only ones who remember them after they are gone?
Bringing dance into daily life like this is so valuable for the different kind of human experience we now find ourselves in after the lockdowns and fear-based isolation of the last few years. I’d like to see more of it.
someone in some future time will think of us performed on the Seattle Center Monorail on 3/3. Show info here.
someone in some future time will think of us was created by Alice Gosti; and created with and performed by Alyza DelPan-Monley, Kaitlin McCarthy, Aja Green, Madison Shorter, and Margaux Gex.
Artists at the Center is a multi-year presentation. Performances in this first season, held primarily in the Armory, run through the summer; see performers and schedule here.
Melody Datz Hansen is a freelance dance writer in Seattle. Her work is published in The Seattle Times, The Stranger, City Arts, and on her blog at melodydatz.com.