NYC's Pedestrian Wanderlust Turns 2

By. Kristen Hedberg

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Kristen Hedberg

Pedestrian Wanderlust Gala

Sunday, March 4th at 8:00pm

Venue: Dixon Place


On Sunday, March 4th I attended Pedestrian Wanderlust’s gala performance at Dixon Place, which celebrated the nonprofit’s second year of founding. With my sticker ticket in hand, I walked downstairs into Dixon Place’s theater looking forward to learning more about Pedestrian Wanderlust. While I knew several of its participating artists and had seen a few of their dance videos on their website and social media, this was my first in-person event hosted by the nonprofit.


Pedestrian Wanderlust streamed several of their dance films on a large screen as the audience filled the house. I was intrigued by their first video, which featured six dancers grooving in cocktail dresses and high heels on a cobblestone bridge. Each dancer’s name was highlighted in text at the end of the video, as was done in each of Pedestrian Wanderlust’s projects. In this first video, I virtually met Beatrice, Slim, Sharron, Bei Bei, Murphy, and Dolores “Ninja.” Indicating excitement, urban glamor, and ambition, these six dancers set a thrilling tone for the remainder of the evening.


The evening was a fusion between film and live dance, which worked seamlessly. Host and Pedestrian Wanderlust founder, Rami Shafi, took us on a journey from Pedestrian Wanderlust’s humble beginnings as a video portrait series of New York City based dancers to their current goals for the nonprofit. Pedestrian Wanderlust has grown into a network of movement artists around the globe. They are moving, grooving and hashtagging Pedestrian Wanderlust’s social media with the tags #PedestrianWanderlust and #AMovementMovement. Over four hundred videos have been filmed from New York, Los Angeles, Wisconsin, Colorado, and Spain.


“Like fingerprints,” no two Pedestrian Wanderlust films are alike.


I watched countless examples of Pedestrian Wanderlust’s genius. Their first clip, which was filmed two years ago, was inspired by Gay Street in the West Village of Manhattan. I could see that these dancers remain curious about the world around them, and are ever-ready to transform a regular space into a dance floor! Pedestrian Wanderlust continues to challenge its improvisers to remain as authentic and open as possible.


As we viewed more films, I wondered how each video would develop from the last. Would all films be taped outside? Would any “non-dancer” bystanders engage with the dancers being filmed, if filmed in a public space? How long would the videos be? What would the dancers wear? How would each dancer’s movement quality differ?


It was also curious to me how I felt I “knew” each of these dancers after watching a mere 45-second portrait of them. As the evening progressed, I also watched videos of improvised duets and group dances. I watched a group of children climb into the fountain in Washington Square Park. I watched a pair of friends who had not seen each other in months meet on the Brooklyn Bridge and improvise by surprise. These sparks were touching and left a warm impression of the nonprofit in me. As if I had glimpsed a bold painting for a short period of time, each video left a starkly true impression of each dancer. I saw a wide array of locations, ages, body types, and backgrounds represented on film. And I “left” each film with a taste of each dancers’ flare.


The gala performance was not limited to videos on the screen: after each video, the same dancer would enter the space and continue their dance for film through live improvisation. I loved this opportunity to watch the dancer live! It shifted my viewing perspective to as if I were filming or observing behind the camera.


Also reiterated was the most notable aspect of Pedestrian Wanderlust. The movement is not intended for dancers alone: the movement is open for all bodies to participate, regardless of any formal dance background. This inclusivity allows a tremendous opportunity to connect humans around the globe who love to move!


The gala performance offered a firsthand example of including all movers. The audience was prompted to participate in a Pedestrian Wanderlust “blind date.” Randomly selected audience members got to dance with a partner they had never met previously. This experiment was also shown as an example of one of the gala’s video streams, featuring dancers Dale Ratcliff and Núria Martin Fandos. Blind dates are one of the many methods Pedestrian Wanderlust employs to challenge its dancers to remain open minded and fearless about celebrating dance. I watched in awe as six audience members danced with a new partner. Their connections were authentic and seamless.


The Pedestrian Wanderlust gala at Dixon Place had much to celebrate. Pedestrian Wanderlust’s opening and closing questions were the same: “Do you want to dance?”