Shoulder to shoulder, we looked up to the brick face of the Manhattan Bridge. Shapes bounced off in varying degrees of color and light, growing and expanding with each installation. A giant ball of equations grew past the boundaries marked by the bridges’ walls, and several columns of white beams shot skyward to an endless darkness above.
Dumbo, Brooklyn was transformed into a playground of color for the first annual New York Festival of Light last weekend. I felt a childish wonder gazing upon all the installations, and the creativity. Though crowded, I felt at ease in this community, taken in by the art and excitement of a new experience, and the shared energy and appreciation for the event.
We followed the masses into the Manhattan Bridge tunnel for a show, creeping slowly, herd-like, to replace the large crowd that had just been there. It was body to body and all heads turned towards a small stage.
Standing on the stage, motionless, was a man dressed in a full-body suit of reflective squares. Every inch was covered by small mirrors, from toe to finger to head, and he stood, feet placed in parallel, hip distance apart, fully still.
The music began, and lights turned to shine onto his suit. I could see his breath leaving the fabric in small puffs of steam rising from his metallic face, creating a halo of illuminated air. He slowly raised his arms, moving deliberately, mindfully, as beams of light shot out from every orifice. From his center, lines of white grew in every direction, beginning thin, and growing with intensity. As he made his way to face upstage, turning on his axis, the lights changed and he had a sea of stars in front of him. He gently shook, and the lights bounced off the back wall, the brick, and the ceiling of the tunnel, as though he controlled the very cosmos he had created.
Returning to his front, the lights intensified to create a blinding white shape, encasing him, glowing like a pillar, and the question arose in me:
Was the light coming from him or being reflected?
What is our inner light?
What do we receive that nourishes us and how does that manifest in our energy?
I’ve experienced the visualization of a “light bath”, closing my eyes while seated, and seen a light pouring over me, my shoulders relaxing, and my breath slowing. I have felt this energy through the top of my head and allowed it down my spine, into my feet.
I have also felt my heart beating, and heat rising, emanating out of me from within. I’ve visualized a “ball of light”, under my hand at my belly and felt it grow with each breath until it has covered me, forming a beautiful protective ball with the tiniest holes so that only what serves me can pass through.
In both, there has been a connection to a source of light, whether external or internal, but both have processed through my body and resulted in the simple power of trust. Trust that I have everything I need, and this is a reminder I come back to again and again. Lightness has a pair, and it is easy to forget in the dark that one doesn’t exist without the other. Even more so, what we emit can affect those around us. When the choice is before us, what do we connect to?
I had the joy of dancing in a fabulous video project called “Public Displays”, under the direction of Mike Kirsch. It was shot on the Upper West Side, with six men and six women, and was based on the simple belief, “Everyone should hold hands with the one they love.” The tone was playful, and the music infectious, but the message was powerful.
In offering the visual of kissing, holding hands, and being public about this, lines disappear around gender, and relationship bias. Quite simply, the statement is human, and the ability to be in public and show affection with whoever you want is the gift, and a commonality we can all share.
When I picture the beams of light surrounding the performer on the stage under the Manhattan Bridge, or I feel my palms pressing into my fellow dancers’ hands around Riverside Park, I remember sitting and feeling my heart and the growing warmth of my belly.
Art can be an incredible vehicle, expressing our depths, and our stories. It can expand off a brick facade, or move people to action through dance. We can embrace, and we can offer, all under the same glorious light that flows from within and from all around. While there have been many names under this definition, I think I’ll keep it simple, as I raise my arms or wrap my fingers in kind: