A Black man wearing rainbow paint splatted tank top and leggings strutting with headphones on in a busy New York City park.

Desire Lines

Rashaun Mitchell & Silas Riener

A path emerges when the same section of land is trodden repeatedly; where the grass has been trampled or the dirt stomped. These paths are called desire lines, which are alternate, unofficial routes or trails in nature and landscape architecture. Choreographers Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener apply this concept to a dance improvisation practice that maps individual and collective action. The resultant social and movement interactions between dancing individuals produce a choreographic world that is built of its own desires. The project, titled Desire Lines, is an extended work that the artists have developed over years. They have staged the practice for audiences in a theater, a gallery, and outdoors. With each iteration, shifting models for coexistence, assimilation, and rebellion emerge.

Rashaun Mitchell & Silas Riener have been working together since 2010 when they worked in the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Since then the duo has developed numerous small and large scale works that have been produced worldwide. The artists were last at EMPAC with Charles Atlas for Tesseract curated by Vic Brooks in 2016.


All current EMPAC residencies are being hosted remotely with support from EMPAC curatorial, administrative, and production staff and resources. While no artists are on site in Troy, our staff is continuing to collaborate with artists toward the development of new works.


Main Image: Desire Lines in Madison Square Park, 2017. Photo: Paula Lobo.

Presented By

EMPAC Fall 2020



EMPAC Fall 2020 presentations, residencies, and commissions are made possible by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts; and Vlaamse Gemeenschap, department of Culture, Youth, and Media. Additional project support by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; New Music USA; CCS Bard; Creative Capital; the Graham Foundation; and the National Culture and Arts Foundation, Taiwan.