MARCH 18, 2012

Pompidou Center curators are great masters and entertainers who know how and like to make gifts to art lovers. The exhibition “Danser sa vie,” which opened on November 23, 2011, was done with great love.  Plastic arts as represented by ballet and dance, dancers and ballerinas, choreographers and performers of genius are, beyond doubt, the main protagonists of the exposition. In short, they are the people who in one way or another are privy to the mystery of the creation of the great art of Dance.

Occupying an area of over 2,000 sq. m, the exhibition is huge and consists not only of visual rows – paintings, graphic works, photographs and sketches of costumes and stage sets for different ballet productions − arranged chronologically from 1900 to our day. The curators have done something immeasurably more. Of the enormous number of all sorts of documents they managed to choose precisely what enables the viewer to feel to the utmost extent the plastics of dance and its transformations over the different decades of the twentieth century. On show are signal, to be more precise, cult figures of plastic arts – stars who made not only their own style but their own epochs in dance.

одиночное фото Exhibition “Danser sa vie” at the Pompidou Center in Paris

The multitude of fascinating exhibits includes paintings and graphic works by Emil Nolde, the original version of Matisse’s monumental panels Dance, done in 1931 on commission for the American collector Albert Barnes, drawings and sculptures by Rodin, pieces by Fernand Leger, Picasso, Rodchenko, Picabia, Sonia Delaunay and Gino Severini, and Kandinsky’s watercolors for his stage composition Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Moussorgsky.

Archival photographs and videos galore. In the 1920s an unknown eye-witness pictured the famous barefoot dancer Isadora Duncan at a forest edge. There are also many photographs of her disciples and followers. Vaclav Nijinski’s reconstructed ballet L’ Après-Midi d’un faune is screened on a huge display, and his pencil drawings are in the next hall. I was greatly impressed by notations made by Lavinia Schulz and Walter Holdt for Toboggan, 1923.  It was perhaps for the first time that I saw the whole dance rather than individual poses and gestures represented graphically. And it remains an enigma for me how one can draw the entire dance, the movement of arms and legs, the interaction of partners and their transference against each other and within the space of the stage.

Most important, from my point of view, is that all the technical achievements that have been introduced actively in contemporary art in the past decades (including in the art of exposition) have been intertwined in the context of the exhibition harmoniously and with great delicacy. The viewers’ attention is riveted to fragments of the best ballets of different decades shown on screen. The half-dim hall where fragments of the famous production of Igor Stravinsky’s Rites of Spring by Pina Bausch are shown is packed to capacity, and many viewers just settle down on the floor.

The clear-cut structure of the exhibition project itself is especially stunning. The exhibition traces the birth and transformation of modern dance and its inseparable link with pictorial art and social development throughout the past century. Theme exhibits in the halls of “Dance as an Expression of Subjectivity,” “From Expressionist Dance to Theater Dance,” “Dance in the Third Reich,” “Dance at the Bauhaus” and “Futurist Dance” are very impressive, eye-catching and thought provoking. The exposition offers a brief survey of the history of the development of 20th-century art of dance. By the end the visitors are invited to put on special earpieces and dance the never-dying waltz. An indisputably landmark event, like many other Centre Pompidou exhibition projects!

There is no doubt that the numerous lovers of ballet in the two Russian capitals and other Russian cities would have appreciated such an exhibition should it be organized in Russia, which has no less material stored in its museums. Maybe it will indeed happen one day. Meanwhile, there is still a chance to see the exhibition at the cultural capital of Europe. Anyhow, I’d strongly recommend viewing the exhibition video at the Pompidou Centre website.




Exhibition Catalogue Dancer sa vie. Éditions du Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2011.