For a dancer/choreographer who often finds inspiration from her various performance venues, the French Market proved to be fertile creative ground for Dana Reed.
After being commissioned by the French Market Corporation to be part of a roving, live art installation at the market, Reed, founder of Alternative Collaborations Dance, took a tour of the enduring outdoor mall.
“I got really interested in the historical facts that were brought about during the tour,” said Reed, “and I kept seeing all these beautiful spaces where I felt dance and music would look really beautiful.”
The result is this weekend’s Relics and Remembrances: A French Market Cache. Audience members will be guided through the district by a local tour guide and experience three live dance and music installations, each representative of a historical event that took place in that exact location.
The first stop is Latrobe Park. Tucked between the open-air stalls of the French Market, the park is a people-watching green space accented by sunken seating, fountains and sculptures. The park sits on the city’s first waterworks and incorporates some of the remaining features into sculptures.
“The Latrobe family was a huge architectural family in New Orleans and they started the waterworks,” said Reed, “and that’s why the fountain is there in Latrobe Park.”
The park inspired Reed to choreograph a scene in which her troupe, which includes Peryn St. Raymond, Alexa Erck Andrewa Rush, NaSheeka Nedsreal and Erin Reho Pelias, begin as statues, then “come to life and flow like water,” said Reed. “It also has to do with how women have grown in society, how back then they were kind of stiff and through time they’ve kind of loosened up and been able to sort of show their colors a little bit more, and that’s how it ends, the women get to break out, so to speak.”
The audience will then be led to Dutch Alley, formerly the Bazaar Market. Reed riffed on that title and created a “Bizarre Market.” At one time, the Bazaar Market was a meat market, so Reed choreographed “sort of a Stomp-esque butcher routine using utensils like meat tenderizers and butcher blocks and metal plates,” she said.
Her dancers will come out to shop in the market, “then they sort of get cuckoo, they get sort of wacky, they get sort of bizarre,” said Reed. “Then there’s a huge percussion series that sort of turns into madness, and at the very end a crazy butcher man comes out and he’s actually going to do a percussion piece with meat, with real beef products.
“That will be a first for me,” Reed added, laughing.
The final section takes place at Washington Artillery Park.
“I was really interested in a folklore the native Indians talked about, about a blood-sucking demon or animal that comes out of the Mississippi river at night,” said Reed. “Through time it’s actually turned into a Cajun folklore called the Rougaroo.”
Reed’s dancers will play the part of the Native Americans, who are telling the story of the mythical creature, while a local artist will play the role of the Rougaroo itself.
As viewers watch from the canon above the amphitheater, the performers travel up from the waters, performing a native ritual to bring the Rougarou to life. Encircled by the performers, viewers are encouraged to join the ritual … or be eaten by the Rougarou.
The video below highlights previous site-specific performances by Alternative Collaborations Dance:
Brian Friedman writes about New Orleans people, places and events for NolaVie.