Whale Fall Abyss

L-R: mayfield brooks and Dorothy Carlos in Whale Fall Abyss on the sailing ship Wavertree at the South Street Seaport Museum in Manhattan, NY. Courtesy LMCC.net
L-R: mayfield brooks and Dorothy Carlos in Whale Fall Abyss on the sailing ship Wavertree at the South Street Seaport Museum in Manhattan, NY. Courtesy LMCC.net

NEW YORK – Whale Fall Abyss

mayfield brooks’ avant-garde, perhaps expressionist, dramatic musical and dance performance, “Whale Fall Abyss,” took the audience on a deeply emotional journey. Viewers were indeed offered an evocative, artistic exploration of grief, resilience, and interspecies connections. Appropriately staged in the historic tall ship Wavertree at Manhattan’s South Street Seaport Museum, the piece sojourned to sections of the 19th-century sailing vessel before culminating in the cavernous cargo hold, leaving the audience with a profound sense of connection and reflection.



The performance began on upper decks as brooks and dancer/performer Camilo Restrepo interacted, eventually commuting into an intimate embrace of poly-centered, “off-axis” movements of wining and undulating.

brooks’ dance and song were complemented by haunting sounds crafted by electronic cellist Dorothy Carlos. Carlos’s rich sonic language, replete with horrifying chimes akin to Wilfred Owens’s “What passing bells for these who die as cattle” from his “Anthem for Doomed Youth,” supported the visceral, immersive contexts.

mayfield brooks and Camilo Restrepo in a scene from Whale Fall Abyss on the sailing ship Wavertree at the South Street Seaport Museum in Manhattan, NY. Photo by Edward Kliszus

mayfield brooks and Camilo Restrepo in a scene from Whale Fall Abyss on the sailing ship Wavertree at the South Street Seaport Museum in Manhattan, NY. Photo by Edward Kliszus

The thematic core of “Whale Fall Abyss” was deeply rooted in the fires of war and the ongoing human suffering they inflict. brooks channeled this anguish into powerful artistic expression, daily grieving, and concomitant decomposing misery. As brooks has noted, the cries of “Ceasefire now! Free Palestine!” echo through consciousness, interwoven with the ringing intones of “Black Lives Matter!” from 2020, when this project first took shape—over time, “Whale Fall Abyss” evolved into a multifaceted dance research project revealed as an opera, installation, and moving sculpture.



“Whale Fall Abyss” metaphorically mirrored the death of whales and how their floating carcasses become vital sources of nourishment for denizens of the deep seas. Subsequently, this natural process of a whale fall, where the whale’s body sustains an ecosystem in the darkness below, symbolizes how brooks’ grief and sorrow nourish and transform artistic expression. Indeed, this metaphor extended to the ship itself, which grasped a stratum of antiquity educing the brutal legacy of whaling and dreadful experiences of enslaved Africans being transported to the New World. The ship, a vessel of human triumph and suffering, was a potent symbol in brooks’ performance, linking the past to the present and reminding audiences of the interconnectedness of life and history.

Moreover, the whales were central to Brooks’ creative journey, serving as figurative mentors in embracing immense love through inexorable heartbreak. That is, whales embody the grief of the present and past moments, offering a profound lesson in interspecies love and the interconnectedness of all living beings. The whales’ wisdom—that genocide perpetuates ecocide and survival is a form of importunity despite impossible odds—infused the performance with a poignant gravity.

L-R mayfield brooks and Dorothy Carlos in a scene from Whale Fall Abyss in the cargo hold of the sailing ship Wavertree at the South Street Seaport Museum in Manhattan, NY. Photo by Edward Kliszus

L-R mayfield brooks and Dorothy Carlos in a scene from Whale Fall Abyss in the cargo hold of the sailing ship Wavertree at the South Street Seaport Museum in Manhattan, NY. Photo by Edward Kliszus

brooks’ dance, sounds, and song transcended the corporeal boundaries of the human body, language, and limitations, inviting the audience to imagine a world beyond war and known constraints. Equally notable, fluid organic movements and communicative vocal intones mirrored the grace and grandeur of whales, while Carlos’ electronic cello inventions enhanced the ethereal, otherworldly atmosphere of the settings. The final poetic, visual, aural, and summative artistic experience in the ship’s immense bleak cargo hold evoked horripilation and profundity.



In “Whale Fall Abyss,” brooks has crafted a powerful, thought-provoking experience that engages an audience emotionally while challenging them to confront perceptions of love, grief, and the human condition. Moreover, the work is a testament to the transformative power of art that invites collective contemplation and action. And by connecting the tragic history of whaling and the slave trade with contemporary struggles for justice and ecological balance, brooks leads us to ponder the cyclical nature of life, death, and renascence. Finally, we were encouraged, inspired, and challenged to envision a world where past suffering can fuel resilience and hope.

Whale Fall Abyss

mayfield brooks: Dancer, Singer, and Choreographer
Dorothy Carlos: Electronic Cellist
Camilo Restrepo: Dancer/Performer

For info and tickets, click HERE.
Runtime about 60 minutes

South Street Seaport Museum

12 Fulton Street
NY, NY 10038
(212) 748-8600



Readers may also enjoy our reviews of All of Me at The Pershing Square Signature Center, Mention My Beauty at PangeaHOME by the Roundabout Theatre CompanyThe Welkin by the Atlantic Theater CompanyBeautiful: The Carole King Musical at the Paper Mill PlayhouseLempicka at the Longacre Theatre, Cabaret at the Kit Kat ClubSuffs, and The Two Hander.

Whale Fall Abyss

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