Buddy

The Dancing Painting

43 posts in this topic

"When Sergei Diaghilev was educating his young proteges to become choreographers for the Ballets Russes, he used to walk them around the great art galleries of Europe: pointing out the grouping of figures in a Renaissance painting, or the mechanistic energies of futurist art. Diaghilev understood that the principles of composing bodies and space in art were closely allied to those of dance."



http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2013/jul/26/artists-choreographers-dance-in-art




Any thoughts on this one ?



Any works of art that you would like to discuss ?



Any dances ?



This is an interesting one.



"The Birth of Venus" by Sandro Botticelli



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sandro_Botticelli_-_La_nascita_di_Venere_-_Google_Art_Project_-_edited.jpg



"In this work, as was Botticelli's desire , the essential element of the composition is the line….He sought through the values ​​of a musical line dancing and sinuous, melodic harmony of the composition…."



(loose translation from a momentarily lost, by me, source)


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Thank you for posting this, Buddy. Yes, a lot of food for thought here.

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Thanks, dirac.


Another question might be has anyone seen a dance performance or an element in a performance that they can relate directly to a work of art that they've seen ?


I can't for the moment and I've been to a lot of art museums, but not necessarily a large variety of dance performances. Also I've not tended to look at 'museum' art as possible inspiration for dance.


Judith Mackrell in the article with the introductory quote to this topic is able to do this. She relates Vermeer's The Music Lesson to Kenneth MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet and Vermeer's The Guitar Player to Richard Alston's Light Flooding into Darkened Rooms.


"The rosy-cheeked young woman in Vermeer's The Guitar Player is also on her own, but because Vermeer has placed her right in the foreground of the painting the space is all hers. The gentle plucking of her finger on strings, tenderly illuminated; the listening angle of her head, suggesting that she is playing simply to accompany her own thoughts. It's a moment I've seen before, in Richard Alston's Light Flooding into Darkened Rooms, a work not only inspired by Vermeer but which captures over and over again the delicate mysteries of intimacy and solitude."


I do have another interesting thought, which possibly explains one of the reasons that I like dance so much as an art form. Maybe this has happened to others as well. Often I'll admire a famous painted portrait and then someone walks by me and I'll think, "Wow, there goes the real thing." Dance is a living art, using living human beings, which is perhaps what, for me, gives it such importance and dimension.

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This is actually a big topic. One of the roots of modern dance is the tableau vivant, a popular entertainment at the end of the 19th c where people would dress as individuals in a painting, arrange themselves in that image, and then move (sometimes to music) as they felt the painting suggested. There are myriad examples in early modern dance of artists using images from the vis arts as jumping-off points for their own work -- Duncan, St. Denis, Graham, Jooss all worked with this strategy. There are several dances in the Balanchine rep that seem to refer to visual art sources -- the fingertip touch in Apollo is the example most people use, but there are others.

I don't think I can count the number of works I've seen that were intentionally based on vis art imagery -- add to those the works that seem to do it unconsciously and it's a pretty big list.

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I don't think I can count the number of works I've seen that were intentionally based on vis art imagery -- add to those the works that seem to do it unconsciously and it's a pretty big list.

Any favorites or ones that you think are particularly interesting ?
This is one that Edward Villella tells a lot about George Balanchine.
"One time in particular, when I was having trouble with the pas de deux [Prodigal Son?], he said, “no, not right, not right, Byzantine icons, dear.” So I went back and looked at some Byzantine icons and right there I understood the whole port de bras."

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One of the roots of modern dance is the tableau vivant, a popular entertainment at the end of the 19th c where people would dress as individuals in a painting, arrange themselves in that image, and then move (sometimes to music) as they felt the painting suggested. There are myriad examples in early modern dance of artists using images from the vis arts as jumping-off points for their own work -- Duncan, St. Denis, Graham, Jooss all worked with this strategy.

sandik, you put me in mind of Romney's portraits of Lady Emma Hamilton - Emma's speciality in the days before Sir William made an honest woman of her was to appear in tableaux vivants, usually inspired by images from antiquity (as Isadora was):

Emma’s stint as Romney’s model had given her experience posing in various classical guises. She’d also had the dubious distinction earlier in her career in London, of having worked as a scantily clad model and dancer – or “Goddess of Health” – at Dr. Graham’s Temple of Health and Hymen, which claimed to cure the reproductive and sexual problems of couples. Emma used her “theatrical” experiences to develop her “Attitudes”.

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I don't think I can count the number of works I've seen that were intentionally based on vis art imagery -- add to those the works that seem to do it unconsciously and it's a pretty big list.

Any favorites or ones that you think are particularly interesting ?

Not a favorite per se, but a very direct example of the connection you're discussing would probably be Michael Smuin's The Eternal Idol, a duet he made for ABT in the 60's where the dancers begin in the position Rodin created.

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Thanks, sandik.


Can anyone think of a work that that has been largely Important to dance or has anyone seen one that they thought could have a particularly interesting impact ?


A lot of folks probably know this one.


The Attitude Position -- Giambologna's Statue of Mercury


"Another leading artist who was creating new works still based on classical models was Giovanni da Bologna or Giambologna (1529-1608). The most gifted and famous Florentine sculptor after the death of Michelangelo, his sculptures exhibit grace through movement, classical beauty and strength. His bronze statue of Mercury, done in 1564, captures the expression of flight in this messenger from Heaven. This graceful and elegant statue, if turned slowly on a pedestal, shows the Mannerist principle that the body must be beautiful from any viewpoint, incidentally, another principle absorbed into ballet theory. Bologna’s Mercury inspired Carlo Blasis, one of the great ballet masters of the 19th century, to develop a new pose, “en attitude”, which is very common ballet position today."




and


The Arabesque Position


"In classical ballet, the term arabesque (aa-rah-besk; literally, "in Arabic fashion".) references an architectural design term that describes and is a spiral. The arabesque is designed linearly, parallel to the balletic position, because the body "spirals" from the crown of the head through the back and then straightens through the extended leg, as does the design of the same name. This design was used heavily during the French Baroque when Rameau and Beauchamp codified it into classical ballet."


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I don't think I can count the number of works I've seen that were intentionally based on vis art imagery -- add to those the works that seem to do it unconsciously and it's a pretty big list.

Any favorites or ones that you think are particularly interesting ?

If I'm understanding you correctly, an obvious example from popular culture would be Gene Kelly's An American in Paris - for example the Toulouse Lautrec section of the extended "ballet":

That type of stage decoration/illustraton work is rarely seen in present day films. CG special effects aren't nearly as interesting to me as sets painted by the artist's hand.

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Thanks, pherank. I'll try to look at this more carefully. Something similar that comes to mind, although it's not dance, is Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet movie (1968). I'm not a big movie goer, but it was the first movie or major theatrical production that I saw, and remains primary in my mind, that captured (perhaps literally) in costuming and sets the actual art of the time, in this case the Italian renaissance.








In regard to works of art's contribution to dance here's another important one.



Contrapposto and Epaulement


"Contrapposto was an extremely important sculptural development for it is the first time in Western art that the human body is used to express a psychological disposition."



"The balanced, harmonious pose of the Kritios Boy ["first statue that we have that uses contrapposto", around 5th century BC] suggests a calm and relaxed state of mind, an evenness of temperament that is part of the ideal of man represented. From this point onwards Greek sculptors went on to explore how the body could convey the whole range of human experience…."




"In ballet, épaulement denotes the dancer's ability to turn, bend and shape the placing of the trunk, shoulders, arms, neck and head to produce the subtlest contrasts and oppositions. In Italian art it is contrapposto, and this is what gives life, veracity and power to a drawn or sculpted position. In classical ballet it turns the academic pose into the beautiful, the fascinating." (Clement Crisp)



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Another question might be has anyone seen a dance performance or an element in a performance that they can relate directly to a work of art that they've seen ?

I haven't seen Wheeldon's "Swan Lake" but photographs suggest that some of its scenes refer very directly to Degas' paintings of dancers.

BTW I like your title for the thread, Buddy.

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Thanks, dirac.

The title of this topic, "The Dancing Painting," probably implies going in the other direction -- how does dance influence visual works of art. My initial reference to dancing lines in Sandro Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" is an example. I would really like to explore this as well. Also things like Sergei Diaghilev's interest in "the mechanistic energies of futurist art" could be fascinating. It might be a back and forth sort of discussion here. I would love to hear anyone's ideas about Anything in regard to the Interplay of the visual arts and dance and related aspects of the performing arts.

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Does Sandro Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" dance ?

Do you get any dance sensation anywhere ?

So far, I do somewhat from the figure of Venus, herself, as my eyes move along the lines and implied forms. It becomes sort of a musical voyage. Her left arm is possibly one of the most musically flowing and intriguing parts of the painting.

http://en.wikipedia....ct_-_edited.jpg

Further thought:
Continued viewing does seem to keep the focus of the entire painting on Venus, herself, and on the musicality contained there. It would have been interesting to have seen this spread through the entire painting as I've sensed, for instance, in certain Chinese landscape paintings.

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I haven't seen Wheeldon's "Swan Lake" but photographs suggest that some of its scenes refer very directly to Degas' paintings of dancers.

There are multiple references to Degas in the work, both in the costumes/settings and the dramatic action -- there are several moments that appear to be set in a dance studio, so that some of the white act ensembles look like rehearsals.

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In the teens and twenties there was a lot of significant trafficing back and forth between Cubism, abstraction and the stage. Two examples:

– Balanchine used to see a lot of Malevich paintings and other avant garde works at the house of Tamara Geva's father, the collector Levky Zheverzheyev, where Balanchine would come for tea ("I liked the pictures though I didn't understand them completely"). Malevich's Supremativism, influenced by Braque and Picasso's synthetic cubism, may have stimulated Balanchine's interest in working on the diagonal. Some of the paintings could be floor plans for his ballets.

A 1913 exhibition of Malevich's works (one of the compositions has been hung in the corner where the room's icon was traditionally positioned):

http://www.dmoma.org/lobby/exhibitions/blockheads/futurist.html

– Picasso brought a lot of his Cubist ideas to the ballet – with his set and costume designs for "Parade" 1917, "Three-Cornered Hat" 1919, "Pulcinella" 1920, and "Mercure" 1924. The ballet became his workshop and he did little sculpture during this period. His paintings began to include raked floors, hard colors and stage lighting, overlapping scrims and other little references – such as the small enclosure from which the conductor watches the stage and which doubles as a skewed balcony view in his San Raphael window series. And T. J. Clark notes that the background of "Guernica" is not so different from that for "Pulcinella" twenty years before.

Here's a good assortment of images from Picasso, la danza e otto settimane in Italia, parts 1-3:

http://www.balletto.net/giornale.php?articolo=250

http://www.balletto.net/giornale.php?articolo=229

http://www.balletto.net/giornale.php?articolo=222

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Thanks for the links to the Picasso aticle, Quiggin. I think it's really wonderful that the Joffrey Ballet went to the trouble of re-creating Parade (with the aged Massine's help). Parade is the coolest. ;)

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/joffrey/film-excerpt-the-parade-revival/2398/

EDIT: relating to Quiggin's posting, here's more images by designers for Diaghilev's Ballet Russes:

http://hcl.harvard.edu/libraries/houghton/exhibits/diaghilev/iconic_designs.cfm

I think MIro's Romeo and Juliet plan would make ABT fans howl. ;)

49_1.jpg

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Thanks, Pherank, for the great Massine rehearsal clips for "Parade" and his egg in the mouth instructions. According to John Richardson, Satie and Picasso substantially rewrote the ballet without Cocteau knowing about it. Yes it's absolutely wonderful, and one must ask why we aren't we doing satirical ballets like that today?

The Miro set looks delightful, but almost as a light comedy. Also it reflects the size of Ballet Russes productions which I think must have much smaller than the ones we are used to seeing at New York State Theater or the Met – much more small scaled and intimate. Even the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco seems too big for Diaghilev-era productions such as Apollo and Petroushka. (Paul Taylor presented a perfectly scaled version of the latter here at the Yuerba Buena theater a few years back.)

There was also a curious Dame Ninette de Valois ballet based on Manet's Bar aux Folies Bergere – it was perhaps a bit too lightheartedly choreographed for the painting's sombre subject, much discussed by art historians in the past 25 years.

According to Horst Koegler in his Dictionary of Ballet:

Bar aux Folies-Bergere, ballet in one act … decorations by William Chappell. 15 May 1934. The ballet based on Charbrier’s Dix pieces pittoresques, starts and finishes with a group composition representing Manet’s famous painting. The characters, however, seem to have been inspired by Toulouse-Lautrec, the ballet's two most famous dances being the solo for La Goulue, and the can-can. This was the only ballet ever created by de Valois for the Rambert company.

http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-an23999060

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Edouard_Manet,_A_Bar_at_the_Folies-Berg%C3%A8re.jpg

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Thanks Quiggin - I had not previously heard of Bar aux Folies-Bergere. I personally love the sets with hand-painted backdrops/art. RE: Parade - I seem to recall that Cocteau DID know they were 'hijacking' the project away from his original conception and direction (how much is hard to say). And he was very hurt that Picasso and Satie seemed only to be responding to each other, and not to his (Cocteau) direction. I can only image how difficult it would be to get all these artists to work together on a single project. Both painting and music composition tend to be solitary pursuits. And all those tremendous egos in one place: it boggles the mind.

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Thanks everyone for today's very interesting discussion of 'modernism.' I've been away for much of the day but will try to catch up.

I'm still focused on
* Contrapposto *
"Contrapposto was an extremely important sculptural development for it is the first time in Western art [ Greece, around 5th century b.c.] that the human body is used to express a psychological disposition."
It also seems to take a single image, such as a painted human figure, and give it the force and significance of an entire event. Dance, such as ballet, can be a string of such images giving it a much greater range.
Sandro Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" remains of great interest to me.
A Still image, Venus, dances.
(This can also bring Michelangelo to mind and his perhaps abstract awareness and sensitivity that predates and anticipates Pablo Picasso by 400 years. All these artists could make the still image 'move,' maybe even dance).
Sandro Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" is classically and architecturally focused on Venus, but it's also musical. It feels like ballet to me. Focus seems to be directed to her eyes, perhaps to remain, which seems very classical, but her hair flowing off to our right seems to be a possible release from this. It keeps the eye moving or dancing. I guess you can make what you want from a piece of art, but for the moment I'm getting a musical dance sensation from this still figure that does not seem unrelated in its lovely refinement to such ballet highlights as the famous Act II duet from Swan Lake.

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Thanks again Quiggin and Pherank for the very interesting discussion. These are a few quotes that caught my attention.



Thanks, Pherank, for the Diaghilev's Ballet Russes designs. I really like MIro's Romeo and Juliet plan.



I'll try to look at all the illustrations more carefully.


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A thought about artistic pursuit.


A work of art may well go beyond the artist's intent and even the artist her or himself. It becomes part of the 'public domain' where it is given additional or new significance, perhaps even a new identity.

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And back to Art /Contrapposto and Dance/ Epaulement. From a very interesting topic here from quite awhile ago -- "What, if anything, is Western about classical ballet?"


"All, absolutely all, Indian art-works I have seen from ancient times, use the turn-out. And not only do they use the turn out: they use épaulement, and even academic figures like the attitude, in ways virtually identical to Western classical dance." (katharine kantner)


( Katherine also makes the statement which was then debated, "Western classical dance, to the best of my knowledge, descends quite directly from technical and artistic experiments carried out on the Indian sub-continent something like three thousand years ago.")






Another idea that I can't historically locate for the moment is the concept in visual art (sculpture) that the work should be beautiful from every angle. I would have to guess that Dance got there first.

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Buddy:

" 'Contrapposto was an extremely important sculptural development for it is the first time in Western art [ Greece, around 5th century b.c.] that the human body is used to express a psychological disposition.' "

I think that most of the dances on Greek vases are Dionysian – or done by Satyrs. And I believe Western pas de tros was originally a satyr and two nymphs, later Pan and two partners – as we see it in Emeralds. The Greek term contrapposto was something like chiasma, diagonal arrangement or rhetorical device, and may have had a different set of associations than we give it. "Psychological disposition" might be a 19c or 20c art history add-on.

*

This evocative painting might be something in the line of your original thought – Poussin's essay on dance and time which gave birth to a multi-volumed novel some centuries later:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_dance_to_the_music_of_time_c._1640.jpg

*

Regarding Satie and Picasso contra Cocteau, Douglas Cooper in Picasso Theatre, a great and spicily opinioned resource, published a series of postcards between the conspirators. Picasso, encourage by Satie, wanted to eliminate Cocteau's "more egregious gimmicks" (Richardson) and also its similarity to Petroushka. Picasso added the parts of three Managers to the libretto. The famous curtain with the white winged female pegasus and dancer and commedia del'arte characters was also Picasso's idea – Cocteau originally wanted the curtain to look like a scroll of movie titles with the stars' names written on it.

Some of Picasso's paintings were influenced by the ballet. The influence on Guernica's background is most interesting.

T J Clark's new book Picasso and Truth traces the development of Picasso's motifs and mise en scene from intimate Blue Room of 1901 through the horrific Young Girls Dancing (Picasso's farewell to Diaghilev), and on through Guernica. I luckily sat in on a two day seminar in Berkeley Picasso in the 1920s that Clark, Elizabeth Cowling, Jay Bernstein and others participated in, and was one of the few laypersons, and so I've become a sort of mad convert to all this stuff.

Here's "roomspace" after Mercure – after the comfortable interiority of cubism of pre-war Bohemianism was breached by the raucous post-war world – which culminates in the bombing of Guernica.

http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/collections/collection-online/artwork/3441

from Picasso and Truth:

The table is a stage, and the instruments performers. There is maybe a proscenium arch up above, and floodlights glare at the guitar and tablecloth. Elizabeth Cowling points out that just week before Still Life was started, Picasso had put the finishing touches to a series of designs for the ballet Mercure. She makes the link to the gloomy stage set for a scene in the ballet called Night. This is helpful – as long as we insist that Still Life is Day to Night's Night. Still Life wants above all to conjure up a room in which everything is imprinted with a dazzling exteriority, and light – noon – is that exteriority's carrier... We are standing on it [the little balcony under the table]. The stars on the table are anti-night. They are pure scintillation.

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This evocative painting might be something in the line of your original thought – Poussin's essay on dance and time which gave birth to a multi-volumed novel some centuries later:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_dance_to_the_music_of_time_c._1640.jpg

Thanks so much, Quiggin, for the wealth of information you've offered. It'll take me awhile to think about it all. Could you possibly clarify your above quote? What "original thought" of mine are you referring to? The quote "Contrapposto was…."? Can you tell us some more about what makes Poussin's painting so important to us?
I recall in one of the video documentaries that George Balanchine said that Sergei Diaghilev told him to go to art museums and almost in the same breath said that he owed everything in his development to Sergei Diaghilev. Can anyone explain why art was so important to him and possibly give some specific examples of what works of art or areas of art might have greatly influenced him?

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Here are Katharine's quotes again.



"All, absolutely all, Indian art-works I have seen from ancient times, use the turn-out. And not only do they use the turn out: they use épaulement, and even academic figures like the attitude, in ways virtually identical to Western classical dance." (katharine kantner)



( Katharine also makes the statement which was then debated, "Western classical dance, to the best of my knowledge, descends quite directly from technical and artistic experiments carried out on the Indian sub-continent something like three thousand years ago.")



http://balletalert.invisionzone.com/index.php?/topic/2837-what-if-anything-is-western-about-classical-ballet/?hl=contrapposto#entry21573




This sculpture shows beautiful contrapposto/epaulement and musicality but it's much later, 10th century a.d.



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:KarnatakaApsara.jpg



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_art




Here's more 'old' art from India (the works are undated) which gives some insight into the actuality of this art. There is turnout, for one thing, but not everywhere.



http://www.tuttartpitturasculturapoesiamusica.com/2010/10/ancient-indian.html



In any case the idea that much of Western 'classical' dance may have it's roots in the East and India is very interesting. What importance the visual arts played in this is of possible interest also.




Added comment:



There is no reason why this discussion of the interrelationship of the visual arts and dance has to be limited to Western culture.



http://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/culture/dance.htm



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_traditional_dance



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_dance


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