Experimental movement and cinema share a rich history, an interaction that truly flowers in the 1960s with the explosion of postmodern dance and the rise of video art. Coinciding with the exhibition Degas and the Dance, Dance and Video: Interactions, on view from January 26 – April 13, 2003 in the Video Gallery (179) of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, presents six collaborations between choreographers and videographers who treat video as a new and boundless performance space.
The video program includes Blue Studio, 1975-1976, one of the earliest and most innovative examples of "video dance," by postmodern master Merce Cunningham and his then filmmaker-in-residence, Charles Atlas. Their collaboration demonstrates the possibilities video offers as a space for independent choreographic invention. Dancing to a sound collage that includes the voices of composer John Cage and painter Jasper Johns, Cunningham performs against the backdrop of footage shot outdoors, in a studio space, and against the changing colors of the two-dimensional screen.
Shot in a gymnasium at Oberlin College in January 1972, Magnesium reflects the choreographic ideals of the Judson Church, and in particular a movement language called "contact improvisation" pioneered by Steve Paxton. The grainy, black and white videotape by Steve Christiansen reveals Paxton’s interest in everyday and eclectic movement sources including: martial arts, gymnastics, sports, and everyday movements.
In Smell the Flowers While You Can, 1994, video artist Johan Grimonprez has transformed Meg Stuart’s choreography by relocating it and setting it to a soundtrack by Hahn Rowe with poetry by David Wojnarowicz. A duet is set in the Ghent train station, amidst bystanders with suitcases, but the video also cuts between the gestures of a pool game in progress, close-ups of the dancers at a restaurant table, and the passing Brussels subway.
Tippeke, made in collaboration with filmmaker and composer Thierry De Mey, is part of a larger dance premiered by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s company Rosas in 1996. The video features De Keersmaeker dancing in a dramatic forest setting and in other outdoor sites, with the choreography following from her recital of the Flemish fairytale about a young boy named Tippeke, who refuses to go home unless he is carried by his mother.
Known for his film-dances, Pascal Baes’ 46 bis, rue de Belleville, 1989, explores stop-action animation to evoke the earliest cinematic studies of human motion. Shot in black and white, this duet, accompanied by tango music, is set outdoors courtyard, with the figures moving according to a linear plan mapped on the courtyard’s cement.
Sonata do Mar, 1998, by Janica Draisma and Albert Jan Van der Stel, was developed with the computer technology Lifeforms. Trained in mime, classical ballet and acting, Draisma was the model for the three virtual figures seen dancing above the sea to John Cage’s Sonata XII for Prepared Piano.
Dance and Video: Interactions is organized by Susan Rosenberg, Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.