NYC Reflections, part two
Okay. So my second morning in NYC, I woke up at a leisurely hour and moved about the studio quietly as a rehearsal was going on. Maybe I should explain that. I was staying at Studio 111 in Brooklyn (Williamsburg, to be exact) and the set-up is a front space with two rehearsal/performance spaces and then a living space for three resident artists. One of the artists was out of town the week I was up there and had graciously offered his space to me. I must say, there is something sort of exciting and energizing about waking up in a space full of artists working at their craft. I didn't see or hear what they were working on--it seemed rude to eaves drop on them--but that's beside the point.
It was about 10am by the time I got around to looking for a place to breakfast (or brunch, I guess, by that hour). The morning before, I'd had a really good bagel at a shop in the neighborhood, but I was looking for something more filling. I was expecting this meal to last me well into the afternoon.
I decided to try out a diner-ish looking place called Daniella's Luncheonette on Graham. It was a long, narrow eatery with a one long side of the wall filled with small tables to seat 4 and the other side occupied by a lunch counter and stools. At the counter sat a group of men chatting and giving each other (and occasionally the waitress) a hard time. One guy in particular sort of stood out if only because he was the most boisterous. I didn't hear what preceded his, but at one point, I heard him declare (and try to hear this in your head with a thick Brooklyn accent), "Oh yeah, I'm real genteel. I'm gentilly." Later, someone brought in a bag of what I guessed was sunflower seeds--I didn't get a good luck. The same man was not impressed with whatever it was. "What? You want me to eat bird seed? You want me to cheep, too? Cheep! Cheep!"
Quite the character.
I should also mention that the omelet I had was pretty good. Nothing especially outstanding, but good food and lots of it. Impulsively, when I ordered it, I asked for a side of bacon because, well, because I love love love bacon. (It's how I keep my boyish figure.) This side order was, also, a lot of food. Anyplace that serves that much bacon as a side order gets five stars from me.
Having consumed my daily requirement of fat vitamins, I was ready for my day of checking out upper Manhattan.
My destination was the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Years ago, in grad school, I was doing a lot reading (it's hard for me to call it "research") on Rudolf Laban, the dance innovator and movement analyst of pre-war Germany. I had been trying to find some film of him dancing, which may or may not exist. I'm having some trouble locating it, anyway. The point is, while reading up on Laban, it had been suggested to me that I might try the NYPL collection, as they had a lot of rare footage of early modern dance types. But I get ahead of myself.
I found the Library easily enough. It's by the Lincoln Center, which I found at about noon. I found a NYPL and when I pushed on the revolving door, it pushed back. I looked at the posted hours of operation and they didn't open until 1pm. No problem. When I came up out of the subway, I emerged right by a large Barnes & Noble. An hour is nothing in a bookstore. So I went in there to while away some time.
And I have to say, it's an AWESOME bookstore. Okay, it's pretty much like any other B&N, except twice as big. Maybe more than twice. My main delight was in finding the performing arts section of the store and looking at their dance shelves. In "my" B&N in houston, there is one shelf devoted to dance and it's not too tightly packed. This store had TWO BAYS of dance books.
I wouldn't allow myself to buy anything. All the books I saw I was pretty much aware of and can order through my local store if/when I want to. (Well, the new Yvonne Rainer book was a surprise, but it was, you know, new.) I had packed lightly and didn't want to lug back a lot of books. Well, I did want to, but I was doing m best to be sensible.
Which is a failed enterprise. B&N is currently having a sale--3 remainder/clearance books for $9.99. Of course I had to briefly browse through their stock. I found a book I had been thinking about getting in paperback, and here it was in hardcover for $3.33. So I took that. (Turns out I'm glad I didn't spend more than $3.33 on it, but that's a topic, perhaps, for another blog entry.)
And I bought a magazine.
But that was all. Not bad for a book addict like me.
Back out on the street, I made my way back to the library--only to discover the library I had attempted to enter was a standard branch library. The Performing Arts collection was across the street. And it had opened at noon. Oh well. I still had the rest of the afternoon to spend.
The NYPL has a visitor card for people like me and I had been warned to allow for a lot of time to fill it out and such. It actually took about ten minutes. The people there were friendly, patient, very very helpful. So much for the rude New Yorker.
I was able to look at three video tapes, none of which were exactly what I was looking for but none of which were disappointments, either. I had actualy written down some call numbers for videos before I left Houston and had ranked them in importance. I was focusing on Denishawn, the proto-modern company that gave us Doris Humphrey and Martha Graham, and, of course, Rudolf Laban.
From the Denishawn side, I saw a very informal lecture given by Barton Mumaw at Jacob's Pillow, the dance studio/center founded by Ted Shawn (which is still an active and vital dance center--http://jacobspillow.org/--one that I have to visit before I die). Mumaw was one of the last of the Denishawn dancers and principal dancer for Ted Shawn's Men Dancers. A couple of years ago, I had read Mumaw's memoirs, so it was great fun for me to watch him tell some of the same stories he told in his book.
There was another film I watched that was also a video of some gathering of dance pioneers. Mumaw was part of that as well. In that one, I got to see him lead a class of yound dancers in Denishawn technique. It wasn't a full class, just a few scenes played under narration. But it was kind of interesting. You see the rebellion against ballet, but not yet the rigor of, say, Graham technique. The other dancer I recall in that video was Hanya Holme, a German emigrate who had been a student of Mary Wigman. Holme choreographed many Broadway musicals of the fifties, including some that featured Barton Mumaw. It was really quite fascinating for this dance history geek.
The last film I watched was a more polished documentary on German expressionist dance. This had a lot of content about Laban, but alas, no dancing. There was one snippet of a dark-haired man demonstrating Laban's swinging gestures within a life-sized icosahedron, Laban's multifaceted sphere of movement. I rewound that snippet several times but could never get a good enough look at the face to tell if it was Laban himself. I'm guessing not, more likely one of his students. But this had more of his movement work than I'd ever seen before, so I was quite pleased to see this documentary.
There was also a lot of content on Mary Wigman and Kurt Jooss, the two most famous of Laban's students.
All in all, it was an afternoon well spent.
But it wasn't over yet. I then headed a few more blocks north to Times Square to indulge my other geek interest--comics. Midtown Comics was hosting comics artist and theorist, Scott McCloud for a signing of his new book, Making Comics. I won't say much about this except to say that it was pretty cool to meet Scott and his family, who is joining him on a nationwide, year-long bookstore tour of the United States. It turns out that this was also his first stop on the tour and so I may very well be the first person in Texas to have a signed copy of Making Comics. It's the little claims to fame, isn't it?
And that was pretty much my second day in NYC. I still had the evening in Battery Park with the free dance concert and then Saturday morning before heading back to LaGuardia. I'll type about all that in a couple more days. Hopefully not another week from now . . .