Thursday, October 7, 2010

'Angels' in Green-Wood

By Meredith Deliso

These angels’ time on earth is up.

For the past six years, “Angels and Accordions” has delighted visitors to the Green-Wood Cemetery in a site-specific performance featuring “angels” — dancers clad all in white — and accordionists. 

This Saturday, the production will officially be killed off. All things, as any fan of Green-Wood Cemetery knows, must pass.

“It’s just reached its time,” said creator and choreographer Martha Bowers, who collaborated with Open House New York, which brings people into normally inaccessible spaces in the city, on the annual performance. “You do an event for a certain number of years, it feels like it’s time to move on to something else.”

But not before two more performances on Oct. 9, as cemetery historian Jeff Richman leads a tour of Green-Wood while dancers interact with trees, tombs, 19th-century statuary and even the catacombs to the accompaniment of accordion music.

“The event is designed to get people who are walking through the grounds to feel the music around them and dance around them and interact with the monuments and hills and the trees,” said Richman. “It’s really meant to be an interaction between the arts and the landscape. It’s kind of, what surprise awaits you as you proceed down the road?”

Such a show may be the only one of its kind in the country, said Richman, as the 30 dancers and 10 accordionists take over the landscape and provide an opportunity to contemplate death and the possibility of resurrection, as the movement and music animate the cemetery.

“It’s a more gentle, hopeful view of how we include death in life,” said Bowers, who, after attending the first year of Open House New York wanted to contribute a site-specific performance to the weekend. Organizers recommended the cemetery. “In this city of the dead, which is so beautiful and quiet, the performance is set up in a way to be timed to walk in a beautiful place and contemplate the richness of living.”

In that sense, the inclusion of angels is obvious. As for the accordions? Besides the nice alliteration, they were chosen for practicality — the instruments don’t have to be plugged in and are loud enough to hear without a mic or amp, perfect for if you happen to stray from the tour.

“People do get lost, which is why we have the accordions to mark the route,” said Bowers. “It’s crazy to be in the middle of Brooklyn and have no idea which way is out.”

“Angels and Accordions” at Green-Wood Cemetery [25th Street and Fifth Avenue in Greenwood Heights, 718-768-7300], Oct. 9 at 12:30 pm and 4 pm. Tickets $15 ($25 for families). For info, visit


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