"You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that fleeting moment when you feel alive." Those are the words of Merce Cunningham, whose death this summer—a month after the passing of Pina Bausch—provoked a wave of public musing on the difficulties of dance’s notation and preservation, as critics expressed a bleak resignation about the medium’s supposed transience. So it’s a fortunate coincidence that the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia is starting the new season with an exhibition that demonstrates what dance has “given back” to photography, film, and video. “Dance with Camera” encompasses fifty years of art—from classics like Eleanor Antin, Bruce Nauman, and Mike Kelley to emerging artists—and all the works are rooted in choreography and modernist approaches to movement. Several of the artists make work for both theaters and galleries, and their use of the camera builds on live performance rather than serving as a record of it. Choreographer Kelly Nipper considers motion’s relation to stillness by bringing dancers to her photography studio to isolate moments, while Flora Wiegmann adapts dance phrases to places outside the theater and the camera’s lens. Elad Lassry’s 16mm films exploit the metaphoric potential of the dancer’s disciplined severity, her unity of mind and body. These artists make their camera an active agent in the work, rather than a documentary device. Their concern isn’t extending a dance’s duration in memory, but expanding the capabilities of the camera through the associative and compositional possibilities of dance. The exhibition opens Friday and runs through March 21, 2010.
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