Physical Improv

A little while ago, my friend Elizabeth Wolfe asked me if I wanted to help out with a gymnastics demonstration at an art exhibition. Liz and I used to take adult gymnastics classes together at NYC Elite, and now runs Dumbo Gymnastics.

Turns out that the Dumbo Arts Center (an art gallery right down the street from the gym) was holding an exhibition by Robby Herbst called New Pyramids for the Capitalist System. It consisted of photos and drawings of people in pyramids, symbolizing the layers of a capitalist system. Robby Herbst was also influenced by his grandfather, who used to do acrobatics.

For the occasion of the 1st Thursdays DUMBO Gallery Walk, the director of DAC thought it would be a good idea to have a few real gymnasts/acrobats to complement the theme of the exhibit. So he contacted Liz, who in turn enlisted fellow instructors and students at the gym, Alden LaPaglia (a dancer who also took gymnastics classes with Liz and I), and even cheerleaders from the local high school (who sometimes goes to Liz’s gym to practice tumbling).

We’d talked about different things we could do, and worked out a rough outline – stretches, some gymnastics basics, and then different poses that we’d improv on the spot. Once we got there, and saw some of the poses in the drawings, we said, “We could do that!” And we did.

The set of improvised poses were also interesting. One person would come on and strike a pose. Then the rest of us would come in and hold complementary poses, creating a group pose. After taking weekly improv workshops at Artistic New Directions for a few months – this felt right to me – this is physical improv!

The cheerleaders got into the act too. They couldn’t do their usual routine for flips and throwing the flyers way up – because the ceiling was too low!

There was a decent amount of foot traffic as people walked amongst the various galleries. Hope they enjoyed the show!


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