Mergers: Dance and Performance Art?

The Dance Theater Workshop in Chelsea has undergone a change in the last few weeks, officially becoming New York Live Arts as part of a merger with the Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company.  The merge sees Bill T Jones becoming Executive Artistic Director and provides a new permanent home for his dance company.

But it wasn’t this merge that interested me the most when I spent time at DTW last Monday and Friday.  The merger that dancer and choreographer Jen Rosenblit talked about was a larger more creative one.

Jen Rosenblit is a current dancer/choreographer in resident at DTW. I watched Rosenblit and her dancers rehearse for their upcoming Studio Series performance and what struck me was the relationship between the worlds of dance and performance art. There were sections of the dance that directly addressed the audience, potentially making them comfortable or uncomfortable.  I thought back to Marina Abramovic’s exhibition at MOMA last year.  The recreation of the 1977 piece Impondrabilia in which two nude bodies flank a doorway and visitors must squeeze between them to pass into the next room of the exhibition, which was subsequently reviewed by a dancer on their site.   This seemed to unite two artists in the dance world and art world that are involved in similar explorations but from different perspectives and with different assumptions.

I talked with Jen about this after the rehearsal.  Her practice, she told me, is more like that of an artist than a dancer.  She sketches ideas, she writes prose and poetry about concepts of movement and body, and she finds inspiration from the way books and objects are arranged in her home.

“The art world and performance art is seeping in and highlighting things that dance has been doing for a while, but it’s attached to a more monetary system,” Rosenblit says.  Which raises questions for dance, especially given the recent merger to form Live Arts, partially for monetary reasons.  It also highlights interesting cross-disciplinary ideas in art and dance.  Marina Abramovic is just one performance artist that sprung to mind as she has used dancers in her performances, but aptly she is being honored in April at the Danspace Gala for ‘igniting dialogue between dance and performance through her groundbreaking works and re-performances’.

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