Dancers remember September 11th with Table of Silence tribute


Dancers pose next to pedestrians in the first movement of the Table of Silence Tribute on September 11th, 2013.

Dancers pose next to pedestrians in the first movement of the Table of Silence Tribute on September 11th, 2013.

More than 100 dancers in flowing white tunics flooded Lincoln Center Plaza on the 12th anniversary of September 11 in a public tribute to those who died in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The event, called the Table of Silence Project, was choreographed by Jacqulyn Buglisi of the Buglisi Dance Theater. Initially conceived three years ago and first performed on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, the project has marked the occasion each year since with a contemporary dance exhibition that is both a living memorial and a call for peace.

This year’s performance began with dancers running into the plaza and striking a series of poses that represented anguish and despair. They moved through a solemn, funereal march toward the middle of the plaza, where they formed three concentric circles and began “[bringing] up mandala energy to create a Peace Labyrinth,” in the words of the performance program. This part of the performance ended with a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., the time when American Airlines flight 11 struck the World Trade Center’s north tower. Two flautists and two singers walked between the circles and performed an original piece by Italian flautist and composer Andrea Ceccomori.

The project dramatizes the “common threads of humanity which unite all mankind into a single force with common goals and aspirations regardless of race, culture, or religion,” Buglisi said in the performance program. “Through this event we wish to achieve the dual purpose of celebrating and honoring peace, through listening, a united moment of silence – a call for Peace in our world.”

Although this year’s performance didn’t begin until 8:15 a.m., the dancers, singers, and musicians arrived at Lincoln Center more than two hours earlier to rehearse. Some of the dancers had performed there in past years, but others were new to the space. A lighting tower behind the Revson Fountain in the center of the plaza, a temporary addition to the landscape courtesy of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, complicated their practice runs. The performers, barefoot and dressed in white mantles, joined hands and encircled both the fountain and the tower as they rehearsed, prompting an early passer-by to ask if the dancers were there for a fashion show.

Above the plaza, on the David A. Koch Theatre’s balcony, stood Jacqulyn Buglisi, using a megaphone to communicate with the swarm of dancers below. This was the end of a three-month process for Buglisi, whose annual journey to Lincoln Center started in July when she held an open call for dancers.

This year she found talents like 13-year-old Emily Mintz, the youngest performer ever to participate, as well as wheelchair-bound paraplegic Kitty Lunn, who is founder and artistic director of Infinity Dance Theater and choreographs for dancers with disabilities. Six musicians were also cast this year, more than in previous years, said performer Amanda Basinger. Basinger, one of the singers, said that adding more musicians made it easier to “fill Lincoln Center with sound.” A 35-year-old yoga teacher, she did not audition; Buglisi asked her to participate when she heard Basinger sing to her students in yoga class. She has performed in the Table of Silence for three years straight.

By the time the dance began, hundreds of people had gathered to watch. Some were passersby drawn to the spectacle of a crowd at Lincoln Center, while others were repeat attendees or visitors who had heard about the event online.

“It was a day just like this one when [the attacks] happened,” said Roberta Katz, a lifelong Manhattanite and retired teacher. “On my way here I saw a plane fly ahead and…” She trailed off. “I wanted to do something to remember it.”

The event, a partnership between Buglisi’s dance company, Dance/NYC, the September Concert and Italian painter Rosetta Vasta, was live-streamed online via the Buglisi Dance Theatre website and broadcast on several international news channels.