After taking Alexandra Beller’s class at the Dance New Amsterdam studios, I plopped down on the lobby’s couch and noticed Mike Rimbaud’s bright burlesque paintings above me. Looking closer, I noticed that the paintings weren’t only two-dimensional depictions of burlesque dancers, but that the images seemed to shimmy right off the canvas. I could see the dancers swiveling their hips and feel their soft breaths from pouty lips. I found it strange that the painting’s provocative movements spoke to me more fiercely than a live show. Perhaps dance could inspire people without actually showing movement, I thought.
DNA’s one-of–a-kind gallery space has showcased numerous artists’ work since 2007. All of the artists’ subjects relate to movement in some way.
In 2008, Service With a Sm’rk showed how dance could transcend mediums. DNA’s Manager of Corporate Development and Public Relations, Amanda Szeglowski, had approached local coffee shop owner and artist Drake Aldrich to create works for the space.
Instead of using traditional supplies, Aldrich used coffee grounds, red wine, and road salt defroster to create artwork inspired by movement. Aldrich used unconventional materials because he wanted “a more personal medium,” he says. “Finding coffee to be my answer, I started using it as a stain and then began to incorporate it into mixed media pieces.”
Dance isn’t explicitly represented in Aldrich’s works, but after examining his use of vibrant colors and contrasting textures, one could argue that Aldrich’s works reflect a piece of choreography; one that has varying speeds, periods of stillness, and ranging emotion.
Szeglowski believes by showcasing exhibits like Service With a Sm’rk, more people can experience dance—perhaps for the first time—and respond to it, even if it isn’t in a traditional theater space.
With its breadth of dance interpretations—from traditional Isadora Duncan paintings to a zany installation featuring dozens of racquet balls from past seasons—the gallery will speak volumes during its Winter 2010 season.
This month, the gallery features works coinciding with DNA performances celebrating Black History Month. While South African native Sduduzo Ka-Mbili and his company present “Got Zulu!” February 4-7 and Robin Dunn hosts “Roots of Hip Hop” February 5-6, graffiti art will be displayed (through March 1st). The installation is by Tats Cru, a group of New York-based muralists wishing to legitimize graffiti in the art and business worlds.
DNA is also partnering with the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts to present Poland in the 1980s: Searching for Revolutions in Dance, a series of panels about the country’s dance revolution in the late 20th century. Through February 14th, the gallery features historical photographs, videos, and films from the period.
Since discovering DNA’s gallery, I’ve noticed that dancers and movement enthusiasts alike seek the space to take a break from classes and performances, as well as to see dance in a new light.
TRINO MANNINO is a dancer and writer living in Brooklyn.