Awash In History
Annie Block -- Interior Design, 11/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
Franklin D. Roosevelt and Robert Moses weren't known for their arabesques and pirouettes. Yet both of these men were integral to the success of Agora, a site-specific dance performed by choreographer Noémie Lafrance's troupe of 35 in the empty McCarren Park Pool in Brooklyn, New York.
The 50,000-square-foot basin, which could hold 6,800 swimmers, was built under Roosevelt's WPA program and designed by Aymar Embury II, the Moses collaborator also responsible for Bryant Park and the Central Park Zoo. Opened in 1936, the pool thrived for nearly 50 summers until falling victim to budget cutbacks.
When Lafrance discovered it in 1997, it was not only devoid of water and people but also covered in graffiti and populated by ailanthus. The concrete bottom was badly chipped and strewn with glass. Still, she recalls, "I was awestruck by its scale, its history, its potential."
Commandeering unusual sites for performances is the trademark of this 31-year-old. She staged her Bessie Award–winning Descent, for example, in a 12-story stairwell. "There's a tight relationship between architecture and dance, space and movement," she says. And she's hoping to convince Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe to reopen the pool permanently as a cultural hub, with or without water.