Two women, connected by yarn, huddle in the center of a courtyard. Their bodies move inward, toward one another and against an invisible barrier, as a soft chime rings out in the distance. Nearby, two more women are cloaked in knitting, moving like foliage in the wind.
These are the so-called “Ghost Women” performing at Triskelion Arts in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. Part of a new dance and knitting piece designed by choreographer Trina Mannino, their delicate, connected movements suggest generations of women moving through time. Knitted ropes encircling them symbolize sisterhood, while the invisible barrier — which together they jut up against — is, of course, the patriarchy, cloistering women young and old in inescapable boxes.
According to Mannino, the piece was inspired by conversations she had with mentor Misa Kelly, who appears in the piece, about the shared experiences women accumulate over a lifetime. Young women grapple with objectification, while older women must contend with a society that infantilizes them or treats them as if they’re invisible.
“It’s about the duality,” Mannino, who hired dancers aged 9 to 70 for the piece, said. “You’ll see the dancers doing a lot of outlining and angles and contours, but then you see these curved, inward movements that look like an abstract hug, and to me that was a lot about relationships — the female relationships that I’m a part of, and the love that I have for the women who have come before me.”
Although the knitting was introduced to the piece after its original conception, Mannino said that it seemed like an apt metaphor for generations of women battling the same societal ills. It is, after all, a skill that is often passed down mother to daughter, much like advice or, on the other end of the spectrum, generational trauma. Throughout the 25-minute performance, four women continuously knit so that yarn accumulates on stage, allowing the dancers to drape the fabric overhead and create a protecting canopy that replaces — or at least cushions the blow — of the invisible barriers.
“In order for women to get rid of that toxicity, we have to weave a new web, and we’re doing that here poetically,” Kelly said of the canopy. “We’re creating something entirely new that can be part of our future, but it’s still something that carries the knowledge and the history of where we’ve been.”
All are invited to attend the free performance, which runs nightly at 7:45 p.m. from Sept. 13 to Sept. 16. An interactive knitting installation created by Sarah Finkle, which guests can feel and move through, will be on display in Triskelion’s courtyard through the end of September.
Top Image: Courtesy of Trina Mannino