Best Bets

Secrets and Seawalls

Choreographed by Melissa Riker
Produced by Kinesis Project Dance Theatre

(Far) Off Off Broadway, Dance
Plays again on 10.16.16
Fort Tilden Beach (Bus available)


by Keith Paul Medelis on 9.26.16


Secrets and SeawallsDancers in Secrets and Seawalls.


BOTTOM LINE: A contemplative day at the beach with Kinesis Project dance theatre, like none you’ve had before.

Choreographer Melissa Riker’s artist statement for Secrets and Seawalls declares her interest in the structures we build to save, protect, and even nurture us. In a literal way, these are the seawalls built to protect us from a hurricane and rapidly rising tides from an acidifying ocean. In a more personal way, these are the structures we’ve built for ourselves, protecting our secrets. What power do we give to them? When broken open in a metaphorical hurricane of our own making, what will they do to us? Her exciting dance theater piece seeks to give these ideas movement.

Secrets and Seawalls is set against the magnificent backdrop of Fort Tilden Beach—an area once fortifying the New York harbor and filled with naval officers, and now home to Sandy-ravaged shores and structures set to be demolished by years end. This beach is also home to our city’s hipsters, seeking refuge and a place to sunbathe bottomless, smoke weed, and make art from assorted beach debris and PBR cans. As its popularity grows, these dour Manhattanites have also taken note (at our performance one in particular visited us twice with condescending applause and cheers.)

It’s this charm of the Fort Tilden backdrop that serves Riker’s piece well. An unsuspecting elderly couple stole the scene for a good portion of the earlier parts of the program, totally unaware of a dance beginning around them. Park ranger cars drive by. Passing seagulls become momentarily ingrained into the choreography, their forward motion violated by strong headwinds trapping them still above the action.

Dancers Cassandra Cotta, Zachary Denison, Michelle Amara Micca, and Lonnie Stanton, donning urban patchwork costumes by Asa Thornton, tatters of a structure once whole, move about a decaying structure in the first part of the dance. Musicians as adept at violin as seashell percussion wonderfully provide backdrop. The movement seems to have a great deal of interest placed on support and giving weight both to other dancers and the building itself. Occasionally, they fall—stopped by themselves, others, or the brutal, sand-covered cement earth.

In the more pedestrian, immersive second act, we’re casually asked to come to the water's edge to share snacks and contribute our personal responses to the question “What have you always wanted to do? Why haven’t you?” It's a bit of our own personal secret-telling as the waves repeatedly crash into the shore. The dance here feels more languid, though aggressive. Sand is kicked up and abused. The dancers unapologetically get covered in the grains. The natural power of the earth invades. Perhaps the secrets we’ve revealed live in their bodies, or we perceive them as such. We’re asked to look out to the ocean, across the horizon in contemplation of this giant earth that contains us all—this natural place with tremendous power and force to protect and destroy.

(Secrets and Seawalls plays on the Fort Tilden Beach again on Sunday, October 16, 2016. Performances are at 1 and 4:30. Meet at the Rockaway Artist Alliance: sTudio 7 Galleries, Gateway National Recreation Area, 1 Murray Rd, Building T7. You can also buy a ticket including the NYC Beach Bus, picking up at Atlantic Terminal (Barclay's Center Shake Shack, 170 Flatbush Avenue). The bus takes about an hour each way. Running time is 90 minutes for the performance, plus additional time for touring the art galleries, and the provided snacks and drinks. Tickets are $25 for the performance only, $35 including transportation. Tickets and more information are available at


Secrets and Seawalls is choreographed by Melissa Riker. The host/facilitator is Adina Valerio, the costume design/creation is by Asa Thornton. The concept collaborator is Lee H. Skolnick. The dance dramaturg is Pele Bausch. The Producing Director is Danielle Brock. The Company Manager is Michelle Amara Micca. The musicians are Katie Down, Michael Evans, and Helen Yee.

The performers are Cassandra Cotta, Zachary Denison, Michelle Amara Micca, and Lonnie Stanton.