Must-See: Frederick Wiseman’s “La Danse”

Sadly, the video clips Amanda selected to accompany this post are no longer available for viewing on YouTube. But you can view the gorgeous trailer for La Danse below.

While a 158 minute-long documentary film about dance may not sound riveting, believe me, Frederick Wiseman’s La Danse had me from start to finish. The 2009 film paints a behind-the-scenes portrait of the Paris Opera Ballet as it prepares for seven ballets and gives viewers a glimpse of everything that happens backstage: from the grueling, exacting rehearsals to what’s on the menu in the ballet’s dining hall.

Although there are tutus and pink slippers a-plenty in this film, my absolute favorite part was watching the rehearsals for choreographer Wayne McGregor’s Genus, an avant-garde ballet that was inspired by Charles Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species. The film allows us to see the production in rehearsal and then we see get to the final product. Although I have only seen several minutes of this ballet, I’m absolutely obsessed: the costuming reminds me of moth wings or the textiles from Alexander McQueen’s spring/summer 2010 collection Plato’s Atlantis (McQueen’s collection was also inspired by On the Origins of Species), the music by Joby Talbot and Deru is eerie but beautiful, and the dance moves are downright biomorphic, bringing to mind insects, the snaky reptilian swoop of swan’s necks, and even wiggly protozoa in a petri dish.

La Danse is screening in the museum auditorium on Saturday, December 17, at 2 pm, included in exhibition admission. Don’t miss it!

Amanda Jiron-Murphy, In-Gallery Interpretation and Public Programs Coordinator

Frame Game

Do you have a favorite Phillips frame? Paul Klee’s handmade frames, preserved at the Phillips under secondary shadowbox frames, first came to mind for Paintings Conservator Patricia Favero, who was quick to add that she has many other favorites.

Many–if not most–of the artworks owned by the Phillips are displayed in frames. I’d venture to guess that viewers spend less time considering a frame than the work it surrounds, and that artists (and curators) prefer it that way. Frames serve the functional purpose of protecting a painting or a work on paper and also act as a support by which pieces can be mounted to a wall. Nevertheless, frames are carefully designed and selected to complement the art they hold.

Dancer onstage with a Bouquet (c. 1876), a small but difficult to miss piece in the museum’s current exhibition Degas’s Dancers at the Barre: Point and Counterpoint features a frame made by Degas himself.

Edgar Degas, Dancer Onstage with a Bouquet, c. 1876. Pastel over monotype on laid paper, 10 5/8 x 14 7/8 inches. Private Collection

It is quite interesting to observe how the design of the frame differs from the frames that surround the other works in the exhibition. Favero, who retouched the Degas frame to prepare it for display at the Phillips, said that ordinarily an artwork’s frame is chosen by a dealer, curator, or private collector. Interjecting her own opinion on the matter, she added “[frames] can add or take away from the work.”

Can you guess which Phillips artworks go in the frames pictured here? Hint #1: One is the Degas frame. Hint #2: All pieces are currently on view.

Click through the links below to see how your memory fared!
Upper left
Upper right
Bottom left
Bottom right

-Piper Grosswendt, Museum Assistant/Marketing Intern