Kanami Kusajima (front) post-performance with painter Amanda Millet-Sorsa in Washington Square Park.
Dancer brings joy to Washington
Square Park with performances
BY BOB KRASNER
Kanami Kusajima just wants to dance. Having
graduated with a degree from SUNY Purchase
during the pandemic, her options were limited.
“I took dance classes in my apartment,” she recalls.
“But it felt so weird. It made me crazy dancing to the walls,
the couch, the table. It felt wrong, it was depressing.”
With no job opportunities looming, Kusajima ventured
from her apartment in Queens to Washington Square Park
in September of 2020, where she began collaborating with
painter Pinokio. The dancer/painter collab ran Tuesday
– Saturday until November when Pinokio left the city.
Kusajima wasn’t so comfortable continuing to perform
on her own, but Pinokio encouraged her, saying “New
York needs art.”
In one of her first solo performances, while using Sumi
ink with herself as a brush, she noticed that one of the
audience members had been watching for a long time.
“She was crying,” Kusajima says. “She told me that the
performance was very powerful. It made me want to
The dancer’s performances, which have continued six
days a week in the park, are total improvisation. Moving
to music which ranges from Chet Baker to John Lennon
to Chopin to Underworld, Kusajima is speaking the
language of dance, moving to whatever is going on around
her. “I don’t think about my next move, I respond to the
environment,” she explains. “Maybe I’ll move with the
wind, maybe I’ll follow people. It just kind of happens. ”
Continuing, Kusajima notes that, “dancing is like speaking
– you speak without thinking about the next word.”
The weather is just another collaborator, as Kusajima
welcomes the wind, rain and snow. But other people are
welcome too and the performer was happy to work with
Amanda Millet-Sorsa when the painter approached her
to participate in her work.
“I found her on Instagram,” says Millet-Sorsa. “I had
worked with dancers before and I wanted to develop that,
so I asked Kanami to collaborate.”
It’s worked out well so far. “Kanami is a very strong
spirit,” she acknowledges. ” This session was focused on
slow movements with no music. My role was to provide
the materials and It was great to watch what she did with
them.” So far they have completed two performances and
plan to continue. “Some of the finished artwork will be
brought to use in next session, ” Millet-Sorsa tells us, also
mentioning they are looking forward to that day’s weather
forecast – which includes rain. “It will be interesting to
see what the rain does! “
Kusajima also welcomes the rain but she worries about
the future of busking in the park, as authorities have begun
to crack down on noise levels. Unable to afford the
price of a permit for her tiny bluetooth speaker or the cost
PHOTO BY BOB KRASNER
PHOTO BY BOB KRASNER
Kanami Kusajima dancing with herself in
Washington Square Park.
of a ticket, she will be dancing to ambient noise if the city
chooses to enforce the laws. Citizens might complain that
Washington Square park is not a quiet place to think but
as far as we can remember, it never was. A petition has
been created to address the situation and can be signed
in person at her performance or online.
“It’s been a great experience busking here,” says Kusajima.
“People have told me that my dance is nourishing.
One man told me that I had grounded him emotionally
after the day that the Capitol was invaded. I want to share
my art, I want to heal people. I dance for myself as well.
I need food, I need sleep, I need dance.”
Kanami Kusajima can be followed on Instagram
at @lethairdown and Amanda Millet-Sorsa is at @
The“Save Buskers in Washington Square Park” petition
can be found here: http://chng.it/KwWY6zRq
1188 March 18, 2021 SScchhnneeppss Meeddiiaa