mayfield brooks is depicted in the hold of the Wavertree ship with Dorothy Carlos. mayfield, a chestnut brown skinned individual, is wearing a white boiler suit and turns to the side to vocalize, their mouth open and right arm raised in exclamation. Dorothy, a tan skinned individual wearing a black t-shirt and black pants, is seated and playing an electric cello. – with the spine exposed.
Photo by Cherylynn Tsushima

whale fall abyss
mayfield brooks

Accompanied by electronic cellist, Dorothy Carlos, and performer Camilo Restrepo

June 19-22, 7pm
Tall Ship Wavertree
at the South Street Seaport Museum
FREE (Reservation Requested)

Choreographer mayfield brooks presented two works–whale fall abyss in the cargo hold of the Tall Ship Wavertree, calling up ghosts and ancestors from the intersecting histories of whalers and slave ships and whale fall reckoning in the Upper Gallery of The Arts Center at Governors Island. Using found objects, sound, light, movement and projection, brooks conjured an abyssal underwater world that transformed the formerly munitions storage warehouse into an imagined site of the decomposed whale.

Both presentations were a culmination of brooks’ project Whale Fall, originally commissioned by Abrons Arts Center and virtually premiered as an experimental dance film in 2021 during the height of the Covid-19 epidemic. When Whale Fall (the film) premiered, brooks wrote, “This project was born out of a desire to sit with grief and rage in a world that discarded too much and consumed too much. As a result, the bodies of whales and the bodies of Black folk seemed to have a kinship in how they were both targeted, hunted, and consumed since the transatlantic slave trade. I also came to know that some slave ships were used as whaling vessels.” In that present moment of continued environmental destruction caused by war and accelerated global warming, brooks was asking, “What light reached us? What darkness welcomed the reckoning?”

After four years of rigorous research and numerous iterations, brooks’s ever evolving project Whale Fall continues to decompose itself. This iteration lives as a call to the wild parts of ourselves, a denouement to complacent attitudes towards death and decay. How are we entangled in the ruse of romance with our compulsion to consume and our dependence on war machines? Why do we continue to kill? How can the whale fall reorient us to face our own mortality with more compassion?  brooks considers the whale fall as a reckoning. They imagine their ancestor’s bones mingling with whale bones beckoning us to embrace interspecies care and relation beyond the human. Perhaps we can save the whales, ourselves, and the planet if we simply decompose.

Performers: mayfield brooks, performer; Dorothy Carlos, electric cellist; Camilo Restrepo, performer

mayfield brooks is part of LMCC's Extended Life Dance Development Program supported, in part, by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Presented in partnership with the South Street Seaport Museum.

Performance length: 60 minutes

For this iteration of Whale Fall, brooks has created a free digital zine.

Click here to read check it out.

South Street Seaport Museum
Dance Reflections by Van Clef & Arpels
mayfield brooks, a chestnut brown skinned individual, is wearing a sparkly dress and visible in the glow of a single spotlight that illuminates them holding a microphone and speaking to seating audience members that surround them.

mayfield brooks improvises while black and is based in Lenapehoking, the unceded land of  the Lenape people, also known as New York City. brooks is a movement-based performance artist, vocalist, urban farmer, writer, and wanderer. brooks teaches and performs practices that arise from Improvising While Black (IWB), their interdisciplinary dance methodology which explores the decomposed matter of Black life and engages in dance improvisation, disorientation, dissent, and ancestral healing. brooks is the 2021 recipient of the biennial Merce Cunningham Award from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, a 2021 Bessie/New York Dance and Performance Award nominee for their experimental dance film, Whale Fall and a 2022 Danspace Project Platform artist. They were a 2022-3 Hodder Fellow at Princeton University and is currently the 2024 Alma Hawkins Visiting Chair at UCLA with the World Arts and Cultures/Dance program. They love living by the sea.

whale fall abyss and whale fall reckoning are the culmination of mayfield brooks’s Whale Fall project, supported in past iterations by Abrons Arts Center, CPR – Center for Performance Research, Danspace Project, Performance Space New York, River to River Festival 2023, UNTITLED Art Fair, and Kathleen Hermesdorf FRESH Festival 2024.

Dance Reflections by Van Clef & Arpels
Dance Reflections by Van Clef & Arpels

mayfield brooks was presented as part of the 2024 River to River Festival, with the support of Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels. Profoundly attached to the world of dance since its origins, the High Jewelry Maison strengthens its commitment with Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels.

Guided by the values of creation, transmission and education, this initiative aims to support artists and institutions in presenting choreographic heritage, while also promoting new productions.

Since its launch in 2020, it has promoted numerous dance companies for their creations as well as the presentation of multiple performances around the world.

The program is complemented each year by major events, including the Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels Festival, whose first edition took place in London in March 2022.

This support further extends to awareness-raising actions focused on dance culture for the broadest possible audience, professionals and amateurs alike.