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Dance: Movement, Rhythm, Spectacle

May 9–August 2, 2015

Feel the kinetic energy of dance in a vibrant selection of prints, drawings, photographs, and vintage videos. Dance has long fascinated artists interested in capturing the human body in motion and the spectacle of performance. Beginning in the late 1800s, new forms of dance coincided with the development of modern visual art, leading to a dynamic exchange between the two forms of creative expression. This exhibition presents prints, drawings, and photographs that celebrate the world of dance, including lively imagery of famous performers, bustling scenes of nightlife, and abstract explorations of motion, rhythm, and atmosphere. It also features video excerpts of engaging performances of dances by Loie Fuller, Isadora Duncan, and Martha Graham, as well an act by Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and a recent production of the Ballet Russes' Le Dieu Bleu (The Blue God).

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Artists have often used the subject of dance to comment on contemporary society and culture. Works by Charles Demuth, José Clemente Orozco, and Reginald Marsh reveal the theatrical world of American vaudeville and burlesque dance. William Henry Johnson, Claire Moore, and Faith Ringgold are among a number of artists who conveyed the vibrant music and spirit of the Jazz Age. Bold lithographs by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec feature stars of Parisian dance halls and cabarets, and Henri Matisse's celebrated Jazz portfolio presents colorful imagery inspired by music and dance. Pioneering figures who modernized dance, such as Loie Fuller, Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, and Merce Cunningham, are represented in a variety of styles and media. Brilliant drawings of costume and set designs by Russian avant-garde artists Léon Bakst, Natalia Sergeyevna Goncharova, and Mikhail Larionov highlight their important collaborations with Serge Diaghilev's innovative dance company, the Ballets Russes (Russian Ballet). The exhibition concludes with works by Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, Wharton Esherick, and other artists who explored abstract art's ability to evoke ephemeral concepts like tempo, sound, movement, and improvisation. Drawn entirely from the Museum's extensive collection of prints, drawings, and photographs, this exhibition explores a broad range of ways that dance has ignited artists' imaginations over the past century.

Animation of "A Couple Waltzing" by Eadweard Muybridge

Main Building


Anna Juliar, Margaret R. Mainwaring Curatorial Fellow, Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs; and Shelley R. Langdale, Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings

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