Do you ever find yourself walking through Times Square, dodging Elmos and thinking: Damn, there's a lot of naked commercialism around. Wouldn't it be great if there were an intergenerational improv workshop happening right here? Maybe one that unites social engagement, civic expression and movement? Maybe one led by a—MacArthur fellow? Your specific request has just been met. Times Square Arts has invited eminent choreographer Kyle Abraham to teach an outdoor workshop called Improvisation and Statements of Freedom in Jazz and Movement on Monday from 2pm to 4:30pm—and any passerby is invited to watch. (The event is still open for registration; if you want to participate, find contact information here.)
For his upcoming season at the Joyce, Abraham is working on in-the-moment jazz collaboration, so noted jazz drummer Otis Brown III also leads the workshops. “We start with a conversation,” Abraham says, “talking about how we view improvisation in our fields—and how improvisation relates to freedom.” Abraham leads a loose warmup (for dancers and non-dancers), and then the participants start generating movement around words like “freedom” and “struggle.” Brown composes on the spot, and the pair works with each group.
The workshops—Abraham has also done them in Birmingham and Seattle—operate as “exploratory conversations,” and they help people express themselves by working outside their usual milieu. Hip-hop dancers write; writers find themselves dancing. “This workshop is an opportunity to see physical manifestations of freedom and struggle in the body,” says Abraham. “It's about the conversation, and the sharing and the listening.” The workshops involve people of all ages—the young folks often partner seniors. At a former workshop, says Abraham, he had “a seven-year-old boy working with couple in their '70s. It was just adorable. If people are observing—I can only imagine that there's probably some humor. And I think that's fine! With these workshops we create a space that's open enough and welcoming enough that anyone can comment on these deeper questions.”
For those who want to participate or observe, meet at the LED flag at 43rd and Broadway at 2pm.