Sabrina Peck: Director and Choreographer
Original Works




Young Artists

Cornerstone Theater

About the Artist


Commodities was a dance-music-theater work inspired by the aggressive, breathless world of the Commodities trading pits in Manhattan and the people who thrive in them. Traders formed part of the cast, and I used their complex hand signals—heightened and abstracted—to create the dynamic physical language. Recorded interviews with the traders, sounds of the trading floor and original music formed the score, portions of which were broadcast on NPR's Marketplace. The audience was composed of stunned and delighted Wall Street workers on their lunch hour, one of whom commented, "I had no idea that what we did was so beautiful."

The idea for the piece came from a chance visit I made to the trading pits, where I was mesmerized by the physical mayhem and the extraordinary people I met. I wanted to investigate through performance some of the contradictions that I found in that workplace:
  • It resembled an athletic event in its physical expressiveness, aggressive competition, split-second timing and locker-room camaraderie. But unlike a game, the stakes here were incredibly high--livelihoods could be made or destroyed in an instant;
  • People stood in a circle, gesturing and shouting, desperate to communicate with each other, as if the content of what they were expressing were deeply felt beliefs, not price increments;
  • The micro-management of time on the trading floor--where millions can be made or lost in a split second--contrasted starkly with the timeless quality of the commodities themselves--organic materials such as grain, gold, cotton and cocoa;
  • The shape of the pit--a circle of people facing each other--was oddly reminiscent of a circle harvest dance, in which, traditionally, the participants reaffirm their connection to the cycle of life and to the community itself. In the pit, however, the dance is not about the commodity, but about the trading, and the spirit of community and camaraderie is complicated by competition, self-interest, and shifting loyalties;
  • The traders are on the one hand tremendously powerful. But they are also driven by the very system they create, besieged by a constant barrage of orders from investors, phone clerks and runners in an intricate network of relationships that stresses human communication to the breaking point.

    In all, there seemed to me something quintessentially American in the swashbuckling, can-do spirit of traders who take big risks, act on instinct, live completely in the moment, and are so hopeful about their "Futures" and "Options." There is an added poignancy to the fact that computers may soon make their workplace a thing of the past. I remain excited about creating a larger theater piece inspired by this material.

    Sabrina Peck
    Miki Navazio, composer, Chris Todd, engineer, and Sabrina Peck
    NYC commodities traders and members of Sabrina Peck performance Company: Ray Bergen, Tom Brennan, Jennifer Chin, Darcy Cosper, Matt Frederick, Eric Handman, Phippy Kaye, Kate Pagliasotti, Jennifer Tsukayama, Michelle Yard, Camille Costan-Toth, Leah Heron-Matthews and Eugene Irby.

    "During his 12 years as a commodity trader, Ray Bergen has been asked to do a lot of things. But Sabrina Peck was the first to ask him to dance. So at 1 p.m. today, he will slip on his sneakers and trading jacket and dance on the plaza of the World Trade Center."
    —The Wall Street journal


    "I told my Dad it's like sports--you're winnin', you're up, you want to put the screws to 'em and put 'em away."
    —Angelo Rizzo, Gold pit

    "Its like a poker game. The third guy from the left is a panic trader--he panics--and I want to see if I can panic him."
    —Chris Palladino,
    NYSE index

    "The best of them don't have dark times--they just play."
    —Patti Chung, Oil pit