The black pavement was still hot from the day’s sun at 8 p.m. when performers and audience members began to touch it – some falling to their knees, some laying flat upon it, and some brushing it with their fingertips as they hovered in low squats. This was the scene in the back courtyard at MassMoca on Thursday, August 18, 2022. The occasion to hit the ground was offered by Free Fall 49, an interactive live performance by Brendan Fernandes, offered for one night only as part of the ongoing gallery exhibit Choreopolitics.
Free Fall 49 featured 8 dancers on low platforms, all dancing to house music beneath the watch of a DJ and a projector screen counting down from 49. At random intervals, a gunshot sound would ring out, the music would cut, and all dancers would collapse down onto their platforms, frozen there until the music slowly returned. As the sound came back gradually, the dancers would slowly and cautiously rise to resume dancing. The performance event responds directly to the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, where “49 queer POC bodies fell to the floor and didn’t leave that club,” said Fernandes when he was introducing the work in August.