On Monday, Mark Desman from Exton, Pennsylvania, brought his son to Independance Mall in Center City, Philadelphia, to see the Liberty Bell.
At the same time, three dancers with the Miller Rothlein had spread out on the Mall with signs around their necks, saying “Lie With Me,” or “Dance With Me.”
“We were in line for quite a while, so we saw the ‘Lie With Me’ man, and the ‘Dance With Me’ girl. So, myself, being an artist, thought: ‘this is a performance piece,'” said Desman. “It just had the stench of art all over it.”
Amanda Miller, of Miller Rothlein Dance Company, took Desman, a complete stranger, through a simple waltz step to the beat of her cell phone, playing Alicia Keys.
“We can play music from my phone, or their phone, and engage in conversation while that’s happening,” said Miller. “We’re social dancing out in public.”
This is “Being Social in the Analog World,” a performance piece created by Tobin Rothlein, the other part of Miller Rothlein. His dancers are like Facebook status messages, standing out in public all by themselves, waiting for someone to notice.
People see them and engage with them. Or not. Just like online.
“People are so willing to do this online, but we don’t meet and talk to strangers anywhere else,” said Rothlein. “We’re really afraid of them these days – this idea that we should be afraid of people we don’t know.”
Rothlein first did this in Baltimore, and it was not all fun games. He walked in that city from the financial district to the outlying neighborhoods, sometimes encountering people who were intoxicated and beligerent.
“I’m actually nervous right now about other people doing it,” said Rothlein, his eyes darting across Independence Mall to keep track of his performers. “You can tell I’m trying to look at them all as I’m talking to you, to make sure nothing strange happens.”
The performance on Monday at Independence Mall, crowded with tourists, went relatively well. Desman, an art director for a media retail company, learned during his waltz that Amanda Miller is a former professional ballerina. “I’m in the arts and always curious about how other people make a living; what happens to a former ballerina?” said Desman.” Performance art is one of the things that happens.”
The performers will be out every day this week, in a different undisclosed location.