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30 Dances in 30 Days

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On the patio of a soulless corporate plaza, amid the mirrored towers of the financial district, the lunchtime entertainment has arrived.  Everyday at noon for 30 days, Canadian dancer and choreographer Paul-André Fortier is performing the same 30-minute dance piece to a crowd of transfixed tourists and harried suits.

Fortier has performed his piece, 30x30, in eleven cities around the world before arriving in New York for this summer's River to River Festival.  Critical reviews of Fortier's windmill arms and unfurling fingers have ranged from baffled to cautiously respectful.  Spectators milling and slouching about the performance seemed to be trying to understand exactly what was going on.

Frank Jerome sat down with a subway sandwich behind Fortier's dance space, which is marked with masking tape.  "I guess it's up to the people watching to sort of interpret it," he said, "but I'd like to get the actual story from him."  Stepping out of the adjacent building at One New York Plaza, Christina Ghazarian just wanted to have her cigarette break.  "I think it's a little weird," she said, "but to each his own."

As far as Fortier is concerned, he only reads reviews after he has left the city he is visiting.  "Why would I make myself too happy or too miserable basing it on the opinion of one person?" he said.

At 62, Fortier's career is decades beyond the usual retirement age for dancers.  He believes his experience and mental preparation make his performance different from the younger dancers usually seen onstage.

Ultimately, Fortier's performance is another public art piece in a city where the volume knob is turned all the way up.  In a season where unceasing Mr. Softee jingles and a barrage of free music and performance can be stiff competition, perhaps the best judgment of Fortier's success in New York is that he's found an audience at all.