If not for the crowd gathered round, you could possibly have missed her: reclining in the branches of a tree, as if dozing in her pure habitat, a girl adorned in feathers and tulle. At the brisk ring of a bell, she began to stir, arching her sinewy again, the starting of a fragile descent down to Earth from her snug perch.
This avian-human creature was the dancer Celeste Hastings, the first of seven ladies to carry out in Richard Move’s “Herstory of the Universe,” which had its premiere at Governors Island on Saturday. A six-part, almost three-hour journey, the vivid, whimsical “Herstory” wends its manner throughout the island, pausing at websites the place solos and duets emerge from the panorama.
Move (who makes use of they/them pronouns) is maybe finest identified for conjuring the trendy dance matriarch Martha Graham, in religious, lovingly comedic performances that they’ve described as akin to spirit possession. (The time period “impersonation” irks them.) The marvelous “Herstory” solid, ranging in age from 22 to 64, consists of present and former Graham firm members — the elegant Natasha M. Diamond-Walker, the ferocious PeiJu Chien-Pott. And the motion, choreographed in collaboration with the solid, borrows from Graham’s high-drama idiom.
At every cease on the roughly milelong scenic stroll, we meet one other determine (or two) in the mythic pantheon that Move has dreamed up, introduced to life with the assist of Karen Young’s fantastical costumes. According to program notes, the characters draw inspiration from the ecology and structure of Governors Island, in addition to parts of Japanese, Indian and Greek mythology.
Outside the Climate Museum in Nolan Park — an elm-dotted garden encircled by Nineteenth-century homes — the Butoh-trained Hastings channels the laughing gull, an area seagull with a cackling name. Tentative at first, she gathers pace and abandon after plucking a mechanical chicken from beneath a nest of large eggs, a suggestion of giving and receiving life.
In “Devrai (Sacred Grove),” the formidable Megumi Eda slithers and bounds by means of the grass of Hammock Grove, a tranquil space set again from pedestrian walkways — and, for these quarter-hour, her kingdom. On the granite steps referred to as “the scramble,” which wind up the not too long ago constructed Outlook Hill, Robyn Cascio clambers throughout the rocks or balances atop them, as if on a pedestal, assuming athletic, finely etched poses.
The phrase “site-specific” is typically thrown round, utilized to works that aren’t all that particular to their websites. But the vignettes that make up “Herstory,” which is the first efficiency work commissioned by the Trust for Governors Island, are inseparable from their environment. At the summit of Outlook Hill, in “Demolition Angels,” Diamond-Walker and Gabrielle Willis scale a steep, grassy slope in diaphanous attire, unfazed by the terrain as they lunge and leap. In the pressing “Amaterasu,” named for the solar goddess in Japanese mythology, Chien-Pott dashes alongside the switchbacks of Discovery Hill, at occasions only a distant but still-radiant blur.
In the grand finale, “Hamadryad,” the aerialist Lisa Giobbi embodies the titular tree nymph of Greek mythology, with a sweeping view of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty behind her. Aided by Yoni Kallai, who controls her harnesses, she floats up and alongside the branches of a towering tree, reaching an otherworldly phantasm of weightlessness.
While often plodding in its construction and timing, “Herstory” is a pleasing manner to spend a day and expertise the magnificence of Governors Island; its glimpses of old-school theatrical magic outweigh any logistical flaws. Unfortunately, on Saturday, the insistent presence of a buzzing drone digicam — half of a video documentation undertaking by the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts — typically distracted from the work and its pure setting. It was a downside for many who had been there, however good, a minimum of, for future viewers, who will probably be in a position to encounter “Herstory” lengthy after it has left the island.
Herstory of the Universe
Through Oct. 16 on Governors Island; govisland.com.