Mixer at the Meat Market

by

09/03/2002

4 gansevoort st ny 10014

Neighborhood: Chelsea

The neighborhood is barren of niceties, wide cobbled streets separate low buildings of a century past, warehouses of animal flesh with racks for hooks hanging out over the freight doors where trucks deliver their carcass-cargoes. In the pale dead winter afternoon I stumble over ice and snow blocked gutters to a set of heavy glass double doors into a narrow indoor alley.

Winter’s damp chill pursues me as I wind through the Spartan space, where mood lighting attempts to warm the atmosphere of bunker weight concrete walls and exposed industrial plumbing. On an ironically conceived whim, some insane developer has set aside this space to purvey upscale goods to urbane pallets. It is to this place I’ve come on a Saturday afternoon, to seek out something quite other than the victuals and trinkets offered by the market.

Stopping at a small counter, I purchase a beverage, squeezed fresh from fruit pulp to quench my cold burned throat, before moving on through the crowd of bundled shoppers.

At one sharp corner, an artfully arranged heavy gauge pipe protrudes from a concrete slab near the ceiling, gushing out a flow of water that falls in noisy haste to a receiving well in the floor. Dimly through the fluid roar of this in-door waterfall, something else brushes my ears, a softly lilting melody drifting from the space beyond. As I proceed the music resolves above a group of people, apparently engaged in some odd ritual of human contact.

Here, the end of this indoor alley opens into a space where paired figures cat-walk, face to face in a circle, their feet striking the rhythm of the music. The couples move in rapt concentration, the leaders faces are most commonly masks of apparent seriousness while the followers face their dance with somewhat more varied expressions usually approximating a receptive calm. Sometimes, for a moment, one or both partners break into a slight smile — even a broad grin, as a ripple of pleasure surfaces through the concentration and intensity. Their feet and bodies move together under the firm guiding hand of the music.

I pause in a corner to remove my heavy outer garments and winter boots, placing on my feet light suede-soled shoes, while watching the spectacle before me.

The dance is as varied as the music, sometimes rhythmic, sometimes melodious. The feet and bodies of the dancers are as instruments that the phantom musicians play to put the music into solid form. Each couple shows something different, some step large and others dainty. In some, the slight shift of a shoulder at the right moment is enough to bring on one of those smiles of irrepressible glee that the moment is so sweet, regardless of how tiny the motion.

When the music ends the movement ends. Sometimes couples hold in place, simply waiting for another song. Sometimes one or the other partner gently disengages themselves, makes a polite gesture smiling thank you, and moves to the edge of the circle to rest or find another companion.

As I stand to the side, I watch for an available partner. A slight glance, a shifting of the head is enough to convey request and response. I move to the woman who has returned and held my glance. As the next song begins, I take her in my arms and begin to move. The embrace is firm and gentle, a guidance, a request, not a command. I feel her movements and responses, we move together, we dance. Songs change, partners change. Some of the followers are familiar, some new. Each a unique world of motion to explore.

Several dances later, a face smiles with pleasurable familiarity through the crowd from over the shoulder of her partner. I wait out a couple of songs, observing the other dancers until she is free and approaches from around the circle’s perimeter.

Finding each other in the silence between songs, we smile greetings and I open my arms for her. We come together in stillness. I find where her weight rests and gather her to me, finding a balance ready to fall into the music.

Catching the rhythm of a newly beginning melody, I step and she follows, reading my intentions and responding, embellishing, and returning my suggestions with comments of her own. It is a subtle conversation of motion and melody, an interpretation of the song flowing through me into her, and reflecting back into me. Together, we generate an infinity of iterated motion.

Close sharp steps, spiked accents and sometimes, contemplative stillness ‹ letting the rhythm of the music wash over us before we are caught in another swirling eddy that carries us around the room again.

Balance, a smile, our feet caress the floor. A pivot, her foot brushes over mine gracefully, we slow, she lingers, my hand against the edge of her shoulder blades. My foot reaches out to caress hers gently.

A step, our legs lock and hook over each other, thigh to thigh, I feel the back of her knee as her foot flicks up then down in a rapid graceful curve of acceleration.

Sometimes the sound and the steps are quick and sharp, playful variations on rhythm, tiny adjustments in balance and position. Some songs swirl in triple time like water around rocks in a stream–we circle and float. Some are agonizing, slow, close.

I can feel the quick beating of her heart against my chest.

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§ 2 Responses to “Mixer at the Meat Market”

  • Antonija Glavan says:

    I find this essay quite interesting because of the way the meat market is described. This almost barbaric place full of carcasses hanging from hooks and the smell of fresh animal meat seem’s like it would be the last place to find people dancing. the fact that it was hidden in the corner of this meat market made it the more intriguing. The descriptions were well written, from the way the meat market seemed so raw but yet the dancing seemed so sensual made it stand out. After the meeting with the women who returns his glance, they seemed to bond over this dance in this very odd place for it. He has found a partner, and it seems as if she would be a keeper? A meeting in a meat market mixer isn’t an everyday place to go and find a partner but all in all it was very interesting to read about this unusual but beautiful experience.

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