The history of the NYSE, in dance

May 29, 2008

If writing about music is like dancing about architecture, to what can we compare the difficult task of dancing about a stock exchange?

The Buglisi Dance Theatre took on the challenge this week, performing “Under the Buttonwood (A Frenzy on the Floor)” on a stage in front of the New York Stock Exchange’s American flag-covered facade.

It began with a gold-bedecked woman, who rang a gong (a la the opening bell) while flanked by a squad of men carrying green flags. The dance company then performed a 35 minute history of the NYSE, from the Buttonwood Agreement of 1792 to the end of World War II. That’s right: no mention of the Dick Grasso years, or haunting pas de deux to represent disappearing floor traders.

The group’s energetic performance could open up a whole new world of financial commentary. How about the Bear Stearns saga as tragic ballet? Or the Microsoft-Yahoo follies? Add your own suggestions in the comments section.

In the video clip below, the narrators solemnly recite the dire events of World War I.

UPDATE: The New York Times has a perhaps more nuanced review of the performance on Friday:

Plenty went on, often too much. Though the spoken text was heavily amplified, you couldn’t always hear it through the volume of the recorded soundscape (as well as the loud noise of drilling and construction nearby). For the same reason, it was hard to realize that live music was also being played (by members of the Aeros Quintet). You couldn’t always see the stage for the number of people taking photographs of it.

DealZone apologizes if we obstructed anyone’s view.

Photo and video: Reuters

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