Monday, September 19, 2005

Pools, Parks and Boats

Poor me, I am sitting here minus one wisdom tooth and recovering from the first half of a root canal. I am not really feeling my best, but finally slowed to sit down and blog about the past few days that have kept me too busy to do so . . . .


McCarren pool is just a few blocks away from our apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. During the year we have lived here it has been much a place of facisnation and curiosity for us. Built as a WPA project in 1936, this public pool is 50,000 square feet in size (that's 3x an olympic swimming pool) and certainly bigger than anything either of us had ever seen before. However, due to racism and other neighborhood conflicts, the pool was abandoned in the 1970s to be since overgrown , populated by stray cats and homeless people, littered and covered in grafitti.

Here is a photo of the pool in its prime:

This past winter Brad and I were lucky enough to go into the pool one day when a section of the protective fencing was knocked out. Here are photos of what the pool looked like a few months ago:

Recently the pool has entered a new phase of transformation thanks largely to a site specific choreographer. NoƩmie Lafrance is a native of Quebec with some Martha Graham in her dance background, whose choreography has tranformed the pool into a stage. The work,
Agora, uses controled lighting within the pool, spotlighting from the roof of the facade structure, an eclectic mix of music and 30 dancers to transform the pool into a magical, eery environment.

My friends that I attended the performance with last thursday had mixed and not entirely positive reviews of the choreography and the overall performance. I liked the choreogography, some sections more than others, but what impressed me more than anything and what I think is the most important and sucessful part of the work, was the scale. I read that as a swimming pool, the space could hold between 6000 and 7000 swimmers, so you can imagine how large of a stage the space was for 30 dancers. Any choreographer would dream of having 1/10 of that area to work within, and this work pulled it off. Not only did the dancers use and fill the space, but they engaged the audience of several hundred and caused them to move themselves, following the movement around the pool as it developed throughout the performance. I have seen many dance performances in my life and know that I have never and will never again experience anything like Agora, which to me is impressive in itself.

In preparation for the performance, the pool has been cleaned of much of the trash and debris, and the facade stucture and walls have been painted and reinforced. We can only hope that the community will continue as planned, the renovation of this amazing public space back into a funtional pool in the next few years.


During the years when I lived on the upper west side, I frequently spent time in
Central Park and grew familiar with many of its treasures. However this past saturday we took Francine and for the first time visited it's counterpart in Brooklyn. If you have never been, Prospect Park is a gem of man-made nature in the middle of Brooklyn. The park was created by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux (after they created Central Park) and is said by many to have been their masterpiece. Prospect Park presents me with a vast and unexplored territory into which I hope we will escape from our urban lives during many weekends to come.


Last night Brad and I attended a
Prefuse 73 concert aboard a booze cruise that circled Manhattan with our friends, Royce and Masako. It was an awesome show of live electronic music and a killer view of the city under a full moon.

Here are some photos:

No comments: