Rodin & Dance: The Essence of Movement – Curator's Talk & Performance
Rodin & Dance: The Essence of Movement
Curator’s Talk and performance
Wednesday 2 November 2016
Courtauld Gallery, London
Reviewed by Gopa Roy
Rodin & Dance explores Auguste Rodin’s fascination with dance and bodies captured in acrobatic poses. It focuses on a series of small-scale experimental sculptures known as the Mouvements de danse (Dance Movements), which were unknown outside Rodin’s close circle (though we learned that Stravinsky and Diaghilev were taken to see them). These are shown together with a selection of photographs, drawings and archival material connected with Rodin’s encounters in the early 1900s with new forms of dance, including dancers visiting from Cambodia, as well as acrobats and music hall performers.
Shobana Jeyasingh has choreographed a piece in response to the exhibition. This was performed by Noora Kela, following the excellent talk by curator Alexandra Gerstein, in the space alongside the central cabinet, with the sculptures before us and the drawings and moulds for casts around us.
Kela, in a plain beige leotard (and without music, so we were focused on the body and how it moved), embodied with a profound understanding the processes and preoccupations of the works. The movement of just one arm and one leg suggested the separated cast limbs that Rodin took from the moulds and combined to form into the figures on display; her subtle changes of position alluded to the way Rodin drew, observing a dancer, scarcely looking at the page, capturing the sense of movement in shifting lines. She tracked across the floor while maintaining a pose, altering it slightly, suggesting Rodin’s practice of tracing his drawings, and refining and changing them. The dancer became the acrobat (the model had been Alda Moreno, an acrobat with an extraordinarily supple back); she became a Cambodian dancer with her outstretched arms; but always there was a consciousness of the means by which the body achieves these shapes, of the effort required – as Rodin’s sculptures are left with the marks of their production, not smoothed to perfection.
The performance thus articulated Rodin’s intense observation of the artist’s body and how it moved, melded with the process of creating the works. The imaginative response of the dancer to these static two and three-dimensional representations of dancer or acrobat, or fragments of them, was an illuminating validation of the presence of dance in an exhibition space.
The exhibition continues until 22 January 2017
Curators’ Talks 17:00-17:45 Wednesday 7 December 2016 | Wednesday 4 January 2017