These events, whether seasonal like the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, or one-off like David Byrne’s fantastic “Tight Spot” that went up under the High Line Park two years ago, add to the city’s magic. This is a town where your perspective can shift while strolling down the street — any street, even your own. Just the other day I discovered a random and beautiful illustration of a duck’s head a few houses down from mine, a dirt-streaked piece of plywood made canvas by some enterprising artist. I feel like a perpetual kid in this city – my eyes and mind open, never sure what I’m going to find.
And with my son on the cusp of four, he’s become able to appreciate and enjoy these mysteries too. Yesterday we travelled to Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall to take in Nick Cave’s installation Heard NY. Going on now through Easter, I recommend it for parents and kids alike in the NYC area.
Cave (not Nick Cave from the Bad Seeds) studied dance with Alvin Ailey and designs African-inspired suits meant for moving and dancing in, which he calls Soundsuits. For Heard NY he created horse costumes made of many-colored streamers, their heads decorated with mirrors and baubles. Two dancers incarnate the horses, and, while a harp and drum play, the Heard herd slowly parade around the hall, stopping to allow visitors to pet them, sometimes nuzzling one another, or, when tired, laying on the ground for a quick nap. It’s amazing how horse-like their motions were, how easy it was to forget that there were people inside these fantastic costumes.
With the sharp, up-tempo turn to the music, the dancers separate – the bottom halves of the horses becoming hairy creatures that look a bit like tie-dyed Cousin Its from The Addams Family, while the tops resemble reverse centaurs, horse heads with human legs. They shake and twirl and writhe on the floor, before reuniting as horses once more for a final trot. You can get a taste of the performance from my video below.
My son was entranced, if a little nervous to touch them. (He asked to be held for the entire performance.) He’s a physical kid, prone to acrobatics and break-dancing-like moves on the kitchen floor. It blew his mind to see adults engaged in similar antics!
The horses move in a roped off space in the center of the hall, around a raised platform where the musicians sit. Creative Time, who set-up and run the performance, thoughtfully included an area to one side just for kids. Shows start at 11AM and 2PM and last about fifteen minutes. Arrive early – we got there about twenty minutes before the show began and it was already crowded. The costumes sit out on display at all times, making the wait easy to bear. My son also liked seeing the musicians warm and tune their instruments, and of course there’s good people watching.
He also behaved well because of the promise of a treat at the end. Grand Central is home to some great food, whether you go for gelato, cupcakes, or cheesecake. Make a day of it! And witness this little bit of the city’s wonder, before it’s gone.
Video of Nick Cave’s Heard NY: