DANIEL EVAN KERSH

In March 2023 I had the pleasure of virtually joining a rehearsal for Infinite, a new work-in-progress by Daniel Evan Kersh — a resident artist at Baryshnikov Arts Center — whose movement was danced beautifully by JM Rodriguez. If the past three years have taught me anything, it is the resilience and majesty of the human body even when faced with struggle, a theme that resonated in Daniel’s work, JM’s fluidly supple movement and the installation under which the work will ultimately be performed, as seen in a video. The work’s showing on March 17 was filmed and shared with me, and what follows is my response.


It starts in movement, in struggle. Weighted, the forces pull, downward, backward, into the ground, tugging, they groan, inaudibly they strain, pulling. JM grapples, he is contained, he attempts to break free. 

Quietly.

Quietly he crawls, he wrangles, the shackles are within, they are external, they are internal, they are invisible, they are visible, they are there, they are not there but he feels them.

Quietly.

He pulls himself forward.

The floor is grabbing, he is trying.

Silence.

And then:

Discovery. His head, his hands, his fingers, the ground, the air, he is reaching, he is inching.

On all fours, he sees us.

Gathering. Surrendering.

Rebirth.

His fingers, his palms, the floor. 

His fingers. 

His palms.

The floor.

Like a magnet he is tugged.

Discovery. A foot.

Discovery. The elbow curves, the torso swirls.

He sees us. A pause.

He walks into the horizon and then: redemption.

He is surrounded by the stillness. He sees. And now, we too can see.

Surrender.

Tugging, pulling, the quiet surrounds him, holds him backwards, forwards, he swirls, unfurling.

Growth.

He sees. We are there, in the abyss that surrounds. An invisible sun rises.

A discovery, but this time it is past tense.

He gathers. He holds. He inches forward.

And again, he sees. We are seen.

We witness.

He retreats. An accounting for. An identification: insecurity, indecision.

He is caught.  
He resettles.
He is silenced, tethered.
He regroups.

A reckoning.
And now, oneness.

Photos by Maria Baranova

Through the windows, fog, but also light. In the distance that is the city, that is reality, that is this room and these windows and this floor and these walls… in that distance a siren reverberates.

And then.

He is light. We breathe. The music sings. Heavenly? Dare we use such a word? 

Peacefulness. Belonging. A sense of calm settles. He is found. 

Is anyone ever found?

If sounds were colors the room would be yellow. Not yellow like office lighting, yellow like the sun. Yellow like happiness. Yellow like pleasure.

If movements were words he would be moonbeams, he would be sparkles, he would be the sun rising over the city, the light hitting the buildings, the silence enveloping the river.

Infinite.

We are infinite.

In my inbox, the email from Daniel: Infinite Thread. Thread like one email that responds to the next. Thread like the line that pulls through and collects hole after hole into a single long fabric.

Thread like the throughline of this piece.

Infinite.

It keeps going and so does thread.

Where do we end up? It is not finite.

Where does JM go? It continues. There is no end. We are heavy with the weight of life, we struggle, we break free, we grow, and now: infinite. We return. Repeat.

End goal? No end.

Journey. Dictionary.com says: “a traveling from one place to another, usually taking a rather long time; trip.”

A traveling. A
long time.
One place to an
Other.

Here to there.

After the showing I am stuck. What is the feeling? Nostalgia? Longing? 

Saudade, I decide. My favorite untranslatable word in Portuguese. The feeling of something missed that is no longer present. 

Saudade. It is the peacefulness of the end, the hopefulness, the softness, the shimmering beauty, the quiet, the calm.

I have felt this one other time. In Iceland, where the only word to describe the environment is “pristine.” Clear, calm, like the water that lets you see hundreds of meters down to the ground, where rocks shimmer in sunlight from a distance even farther away.

Clarity.

Also beauty. And sadness. And wonder.

And this is what I feel at the end of Daniel’s piece. Oneness. Wholeness.

Clarity. Beauty. Sadness. Wonder.

Stillness echoes outwards. Stillness is not still. Stillness continues to move. It hums. It sings.

Spiritual, Daniel has said to me.

Expansiveness, I have written down.

And there is JM, seated, back to camera, feet bent to the side. Tender.

Still.


Elena Hecht is deputy director of narrated article production at The New York Times, where she formerly managed the Audm team. Her writing has appeared in Dance Magazine, Columbia College Today and, recently, “I Am Still Waiting,” a dance film by choreographer Stephanie Liapis. She holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from Columbia University and has attended the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She is currently working on a novel based on her grandparents’ lives during WW2 as well as the book form of an art project created in her sister’s memory. When not writing, Elena can probably be found dancing and has performed the work of Gabriel Forestieri, Zoe Scofield, Rami Be’er, Stephanie Liapis, and Ming Wong.