Arts & Culture

Alum brings dance to abandoned mall

Contributing Writer
Sunday, November 27, 2011

Though at first glance the five dancers dressed in jeans and fleeces in front of the Providence Arcade last weekend appeared to be random street performers, they were actually debuting “An Arcade Project,” a modern dance concert choreographed and directed by Elise Nuding ’11. The performances took place at the abandoned Arcade Nov. 18 and 19. The five dancers included former and current Brown students as well as local friends of Nuding.

At Brown, Nuding concentrated in archaeology and studied modern dance. The combination of these two disciplines led to her interest in site-specific performance, specifically at forgotten or abandoned spaces such as the Arcade.

“The work that I’m interested in making revolves around spaces that are empty and abandoned because of where I come from in terms of my research in archaeology,” Nuding said. “I tend to focus on things that are used in ways that they maybe aren’t specifically intended for.”

The now-abandoned Arcade, located at 65 Weybosset St., was once the nation’s oldest indoor shopping mall. Designed to resemble a Greek temple, it was built in 1828, became the city’s first monumental business building and is now a local landmark.

But because the building failed to be profitable to owners for decades and fell into general disrepair, the Arcade was closed to the public in 2008 for renovations. Because of the economic downturn, these plans were postponed indefinitely. Last year, the Providence Preservation Society listed the Arcade as the city’s single most endangered building.

By holding the performance on site at the Arcade, Nuding said she hoped to draw attention to the abandoned landmark and inhabit the space in a new way.

The performances took place at mid-morning Nov. 18 and 19 but did not have a formal beginning or end. The audience included people who stayed for the entire show as well as pedestrians and passersby. In a sense, the performances have been going on for the entire duration of rehearsals. “I called the two shows ‘performances’ but it was kind of an arbitrary designation because we’ve been rehearsing on site for a month and a half,” Nuding said.

Nuding said she plans to continue directing on-site performances. “I’m not disinterested in making work for the stage, but for the time being I’m going to focus my energy on site work.”

A previous headline for this article incorrectly identified choreographer Elise Nudging ’11 as a senior. In fact, she is an alum. The Herald regrets the error.