NEW YORK — Twice a day, Grand Central Terminal is transformed. Thirty enormous "horses" graze, dance and inspire commuters passing through the famous train station.
The performance piece is called Heard NY and creator Nick Cave, a Chicago-based artist and dancer, said the cavernous station was his inspiration. He saw the terminal as a crossroads and imagined human travelers as horses herding across some other world.
His vision is striking. Mixed-media horse sculptures are brought to life by dancers from The Ailey School, founded by the famous choreographer Alvin Ailey. The presentation is choreographed and set to music that alternates from a lullaby-like piece to a frenetic drum solo.
Cave has been making wearable sculptures since 1992. He said he felt a civic duty to capture people’s imaginations.
“We tend to be so consumed by the state of affairs today and holding onto our jobs that we can’t dream anymore,” he said.
Heard NY did deliver the audience to a dream state. Raign, a fashion student who studied with Cave when she was in middle school, was enchanted.
“Whenever they transformed into the horses and they were moving, it was literally like a dream. I felt like I was in a different world," she said.
Children and adults marveled at the horse Soundsuits - part sculpture, part costume - that Cave created for the performance. Many reached out to pet the horses or touch the straw-like material that served as their coat and made a gentle whooshing noise as they danced.
Joe, just eight years old, wanted to get inside a Soundsuit.
“I sort of wish I was one of them. I was sort of imagining in my head what it would be like to be one of them,” he said with a post-show glow.
The performance celebrates Grand Central's centennial and is presented by MTA Arts for Transit and Creative Time which commissions public art projects in New York.
Anne Pasternak, director of Creative Time, said Cave’s handmade work makes art accessible because it’s displayed in a public venue at no cost. The horses, she added, play off Grand Central’s early twentieth-century roots.
"The truth of the matter is the first trains that came in and out of Grand Central used to be pulled by horses,” she said. “There’s Pegasus on the ceiling of the main terminal here at Grand Central. And there’s just something about animals that we all love, right?"
Heard NY, like a dream, is not permanent. Performances run only through March. But like a dream, audiences can take a bit of the magic with them back after the music fades and the colorful horses vanish under the incandescent chandeliers of Grand Central.