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Subway Dancers to Perform in Train Car Exhibit at Brooklyn Museum

 The dance group WeLiveThis will perform inside of a subway car-like structure as part of an interactive art installation at the Brooklyn Museum this Sunday.
WeLiveThis at the Brooklyn Museum
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PROSPECT HEIGHTS — These subway dancers are taking “showtime” above ground this weekend — joining local artists to create an installation resembling a subway car inside the Brooklyn Museum where dancers can legally perform.

The interactive exhibit, called "Public Disruption/Private Powers," will create a loose interpretation of a train car in the museum's Beaux-Arts Court using room dividers and poles. Photos of dancers will be installed on the walls in place of subway ads and bejeweled seats, shaped like thrones, will also be incorporated into the space.

Dancers from WeLiveThis, a troupe that was recently featured in a documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival, will perform 10-minute shows inside the installation every half-hour on Sunday, according to Jackie Danziger and Rebecca Posner who are curating the piece as part of their graduate studies at the Performance and Interactive Media Arts program at Brooklyn College.

Visitors will have to "pay" for admission to the "X train" — X for exuberance — by writing and submitting their personal dreams and aspirations on a piece of paper designed to look like a MetroCard, they said.

“We come to this project not just as artists, but as commuters,” Posner said. “We wanted to imagine a space where everyone present — all of those people’s aspirational visions — can create a space together.”

The exhibit is meant to explore the relationship between dancers and the public and the "issue of regulation" and how it's affecting the lives of dancers, Posner said. 

A big inspiration for the project was to give people an opportunity to watch subway dancers voluntarily, as opposed to being a captive audience for their routines on a real subway, said Danziger, who noted that the lack of choice is at the core of negative reactions to "showtime" dancers.

“People don’t choose to become spectators," she said. "You are a rider and all of a sudden, because they enter, you’re sort of an involuntary spectator. So, it felt important that in this [piece], people are choosing to see their show and it’s not being forced upon them."

The artists and dancers began work on the project in late January, visiting the museum to brainstorm and then raising funds for building materials on Kickstarter. The recent Kehinde Wiley exhibit was a “big inspiration,” the curators said.

The subway was the main theme of the work early on, but after working with WeLiveThis the curators realized that dancing on the trains was simply a means to an end. These dancers have much bigger aspirations, Danziger said.

“It was very clear that they see this is one stage of their life,” Danziger said. “From this point on, they really don’t want to be associated with the subway. They just want to be seen as dancers and entertainers.”

The “Public Disruption/Private Powers” installation will open at 12:30 p.m. and run until 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 17 on the third floor of the Brooklyn Museum. The event is free with museum admission.