Art Washes Over You

(Left) Félix Vallotton, On the Beach, 1899. Oil on board, 16 1/2 x 18 7/8 in. Private collection, Switzerland. (Right) Dancer Meghan Pilling in rehearsal for Snapshot Confidential. Photo: Amy Wike

When the possibility of creating a work inspired by Snapshot: Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard arose several months ago, I was immediately struck by the notion of how a new technology (the camera) could reshape the vision of an artist. To me, this parallels the evolution we are currently experiencing in the performing arts world, as technological developments reshape how artists create, and subsequently how audiences consume, live performance.  When I had the pleasure of seeing the Snapshot exhibition several months later, the rich pool of imagery in it overwhelmed me. I found a strong sense of intimacy, an almost voyeuristic feeling that the photographs I was looking at were not intended for public viewing. Snapshot Confidential is the direct result of how that imagery washed over me and left impressions in my mind, which then led to the generation of movement. I was also very motivated by a statement I read, detailing how the advent of the camera pushed artists to reevaluate the lighting, framing, and perspective of their artwork. I felt compelled to explore this imagery, intimacy, framing of perspective, and lighting through dance. I invite you to join us on March 15 at 6:30 pm, and let these dances wash over you as the paintings and photographs of the exhibition washed over me.

Christopher K. Morgan, choreographer and artist-in-residence at CityDance

CityDance Rehearsal with Christopher K. Morgan

Get a sneak peek at Snapshot Confidential: Dancers and Photography with these photos from the rehearsal. Choreographer and artist-in-residence at CityDance Christopher K. Morgan provides insight on the dancers, lighting, and props in the captions below. See Snapshot Confidential this Thursday, March 15 at 6:30 pm. 

Artistic Director Christopher K. Morgan works with dancer Meghan Pilling in rehearsal for Snapshot Confidential in the auditorium at the Phillips Collection.

Dancers Junichi Fukuda, Tiffanie "Fi" Carson, and Shannon Braine, in rehearsal of the opening section of Snapshot Confidential.

(Left) Dancer Tiffanie "Fi" Carson works with light and photographs for a section of Snapshot Confidential. Inspired by how the painters featured in the exhibit began to experiment with framing and lighting their subjects in photographs, Morgan's dance will explore the use of light and shadow. (Right) Dancer Meghan Pilling in rehearsal for Snapshot Confidential. The visual imagery in the exhibit inspired the use of props for the dances.

Dancers Junichi Fukuda, Meghan Pilling, Tiffanie "Fi" Carson, and Shannon Braine, in rehearsal for Snapshot Confidential.

Early Ballet Films

Degas thought of himself as a painter of movement. As lovely as his paintings are, his dancers are frozen in their poses, beautiful bugs in amber. What if we could go back in time to watch a performance?

When motion pictures were invented, the camera was focused on anything that moved – trains, people, horses, and yes, dancers. There are no movies of ballet dancers during the late 19th century, but there are a precious few of ballet during the early 20th (close enough). With film, a famous dancer with the Royal Danish Ballet could be watched anywhere over the globe, or, a century later, delight us over the internet.

La Sylphide solo 1903

Pas de Deux 1902

Dance exercises at the barre 1920

And this beguiling couple….
Geltzer & Tikhomirov, husband and wife in the Bolshoi Ballet – Pas de Deux

This last performance reminds that, aside from the dance master, there are no male dancers in Degas’s ballet scenes. This recalls Gauguin’s paintings of Tahiti, in which there are few, if any, men depicted. Was Degas, like Gauguin, creating his own private paradise?

Ianthe Gergel, Museum Assistant