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Nick Cave’s Band of Horses Now Stampeding in Grand Central

Heard NY
Nick Cave’s “Heard NY” horse costumes waiting for their dancers. (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

Before Nick Cave’s “Heard•NY” galloped off into its first performance of its week-long installation in Grand Central Terminal, the soundsuit artist explained that he wanted to “produce a piece that brought us back to a dream state.” The 60 dancers from the Alvin Ailey School definitely gave the 30 fringed horse costumes a strange sort of life, as they changed into the horses and then out again into a frenzied dance of movement. There was a packed crowd around each of the sides of Vanderbilt Hall where the horses are corralled both during the performances that occur twice daily and when they are “inactive” (draped across what look like saddle racks). If the uncontrollable giggling of the man next to me and the mesmerized faces of the children watching the swishing and swaying stallions were any indication, “Heard•NY” seems to be off to a crowd-pleasing success.

“Heard•NY” is jointly presented by Creative Time and MTA Arts for Transit as a contemporary art celebration of Grand Central Terminal’s centennial, a place of constant encounters between people, and, sometimes, art. Nato Thompson said at the opening performance that Creative Time is all about “producing a slight disruption between the A and the B,” and “Heard•NY” is definitely an intervention of the most joyful kind. Cave stated that the piece will continue to transform as it develops, with the dancers deciding what they want their horse to be, whether a tranquil equine or a strutting steed, and likewise each performance is heavy on the idea of transformation, whether from human to horse or horse to a furious blur of colorful motion. Apparently the horses are also expected to venture into the Main Concourse in small groups during the performance run, merging with the station’s own constant traveling herd of movement.

Below are some photographs from the performance, but as the herd of soundsuits is, naturally, meant to be “heard,” it’s definitely something to witness in person.

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Dancers putting on the horse soundsuits
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The horses “grazing” to the sound of a harp
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One horse was curious about the crowd
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Two horses roam together in the hall
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A group of horses pauses
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While most of the colors on the soundsuits are subdued, many have vibrant touches like this tall pink-spotted horse. The patterns on their faces come from around the world, including India, Tibet, and Morocco
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Once the drums kick in, a metamorphosis takes place
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Separated horse-headed dancers
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The culmination of the wild dancing

Nick Cave’s “Heard•NY” is occurring at 11 am and 2 pm daily in Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall in Manhattan through March 31. 

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