A Time to P I N E

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 Seemingly out of nowhere, a forest has grown on Rockaway Beach. After dozens of Christmas trees appeared on Beach 81st Street last week, it piqued the curiosity of many. It’s all part of P I N E, a site-specific performance installation and space for communal grieving that will include performances for the next two weekends.

On Sunday, January 16 and Saturday, January 22, all are welcome to enjoy this performance which “explores the choreography of grief, and the enduring power of community.” In this trying time of loss over the past two years, everyone is invited to join in this communal mourning for those who are gone. The performance will feature five dancers as they “face the coastal winter elements together without reservation. The immensity of their grief is surmounted by the resolve of their will. One dancer lashes themselves to, drags, and carries a pine tree through the sand. They are not alone, however. As the four other dancers catch, recover, and bear the weight of one another, it becomes clear that there is salvation in solidarity. With this communal mourning, their loss is not permanent. Like the trees have evolved from sapling to Christmas tree, to refuse, to art, to mulch, collective love and support will transform grief to memorial. Although a loved one is lost, those who remain have the power to celebrate their memory, as long as they continue to hold one another,” a press release reads.

P I N E is the brainchild of local artist and choreographer m i c c a. Living in Rockaway for the past five years, m i c c a has found inspiration in the place they call home. “I’ve used this, my home, as my base for all of my artwork and showcasing all the incredible, beautiful things we have out here,” they said. Starting in October 2020, m i c c a has been self-producing large-scale works such as Sun Dae Day Daze, a dance installation involving ice cream, that some may have seen taking place at local handball courts over the summer.

P I N E first began last year after the sudden death of m i c c a’s close friend, local musician and bartender, Sam Jayne, last December. “He was not the first person I’ve lost but there was something about it that broke me. It was at this time in winter during the pandemic and being overcome with grief and not knowing how to process it, not being able to connect with people and talk about it. I felt like I was spiraling in guilt and what ifs,” m i c c a said. And then they found a way to come together with others who knew Sam. “We had a memorial which was so fantastic with a bonfire on the beach, and we listened to his music, and I had a Christmas tree tied to myself and I just did an improv dance and that was the beginning of this concept. It was this beautiful way to connect with people in a pandemic in a safe way, outside, sharing stories and memories and just remembering these positive times and getting to know him more through his friends, and I just felt this shouldn’t stop. It should continue to honor this person and his creative spirit and potential.” Shortly after, m i c c a also lost another longtime friend, Jeffrey McDonagh.

So P I N E will go on, for Sam and for Jeffrey, but this time in a bigger way. M i c c a is inviting all to share in their own grief as a community. From the start, P I N E has been a group effort. M i c c a invited all to drop off their own Christmas trees with a pickup site hosted by Breeze of Rockaway’s Breezy's BBQ and Silver Lake Tavern in Williamsburg. Lisena Garden Center, Maria Bender who sells Christmas trees near Stop and Shop and Garden Gallery of Long Island also all donated the trees they didn’t sell. With the help of NYC Parks, which will turn the trees into mulch at the end, the trees were installed in a formation on Beach 81st Street. Some others have since even added their own. “Someone planted their tree, in line with the installation. I love the detail that they did and how they made it line up with the rest of the trees. It just shows that this is for everyone,” m i c c a said.

M i c c a has designed P I N E for everyone. “I want people to be able to engage in steps and process their own grief. This is like a ritual to help us all process all of this grief for the past few years, whether it’s someone you lost or all of the changes we’ve been through, like how we’ve lost our old ways of being, and that in itself is also really hard. I want to instill the belief in the power and potential of us. I’m a huge advocate for humanity, a cheerleader of community and I really believe in us and that we’re good and can do good. We can do this together and I want for this experience to make you feel more hope and connection and joy,” m i c c a said.

To involve others in this process, m i c c a will provide fabric and ribbon for those who attend the performance to write dedications to those they’ve lost. For those who cannot attend in person, m i c c a is also accepting dedications on their website, which they will add to the ribbons. The ribbons will be tied to the trees during the performance.

The event begins at 3:30 p.m. All are welcome to come and make their dedications and purchase soups and hot beverages to stay warm. The performance begins at 4 p.m. and lasts for about an hour. Attendees can bring blankets or chairs or choose to move around designated areas of the installation during the performance, to take it in at different angles. The January 16 performance will also include a collective meditation by Idgy Dean, a musician, theologian, and divinity student who is finishing up her final year at Harvard Divinity School.

The performances are free but RSVPs are requested to be made at micca.co. Donations are also welcome to support the performers as m i c c a is a big advocate for equitable wages for dancers. Proceeds from food and beverages  purchased during the performance will also help this effort.

The production of P I N E is sponsored by the generous contributions of Robert Innarone, Halcyon Person, Justin Noga, Marcos Bernardes, Shahin Motia, Matthew Ford, Melissa Riker, Alice Hill, Jeff Kay, Ledah Finck, Garden Gallery of Inwood; Lisena Garden Center, Claudettes, Whit's End, Ocean Bliss Yoga, Oregano of Williamsburg; and Silver Light Tavern of Williamsburg.

 By Katie McFadden

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