Dancing lines

April 1, 2012 § 1 Comment

I was lucky enough to catch the exhibition Danser sa vie at the Centre Pompidou the day before it closed. It’s hard to describe in just a few lines, but I suppose an accurate summary would be that it explored the dialogue between dance and the visual arts over the course of the last century and a bit – from L’Après-midi d’un faune to Jérôme Bel’s most recent work. There were, as you’d expect, hundreds of images of dancers in action, and after looking at a few galleries’ worth of photographs, drawings, and sculptures, something struck me: in the photographs (especially the late 19th/early 20th century ones, but also the more recent ones) the dancers tended to look frozen, lumpen, inelegant. Even if the photos were ostensibly an accurate record of the dancers and their dance, the moments they captured seemed remarkably… static. Not at all dance-like. The drawings, on the other hand, conveyed a palpable sense of motion, energy and grace, no matter how stylised or non-naturalistic they were. Why?

Antoine Bourdelle, Isadora Duncan (1914)

Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Fase (1982)

I have one theory, which is that drawing itself is gestural – so perhaps better suited by its very nature to capture the spirit if not the outward reality of dance – whereas photography’s range of motion is far more limited (the click of a shutter versus the sweep of a pen across paper), and this relative stasis ill suits it to dance. But perhaps there’s more to it. I’d be curious to know what you think…

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