Julia Brown/ Lindsay Benedict Finnish Dance Instruction (homophonokinetic transcriptions), 2013 Color video, sound, 0:50 seconds.  (still)  Lent by the artists

Julia Brown/ Lindsay Benedict
Finnish Dance Instruction (homophonokinetic transcriptions), 2013
Color video, sound, 0:50 seconds. (still) Lent by the artists

How to Dance

On view through October 16, 2020

Curated by Phyllis Rosenzweig

ARTISTS

Lindsay Benedict/ Julia Brown/ Mark Bradford/ Klara Liden/ Glendalys Medina

How to Dance explores dance as a fun, awkward, imperfect, joyful way of moving, whether it is completely spontaneous, the culmination of disciplined practice, or some combination of the two.

In Finnish Dance Instruction the artists Lindsay Benedict and Julia Brown record themselves trying to learn steps to a dance from instructions given in Finnish, a language neither of them understands. Both artists, who have long been interested in exploring cultural boundaries and in what we can learn about ourselves through movement, here share a moment of whacky informality and unself-conscious fun as they rise to the challenge of their self-imposed task.

In Niagara, a young man, filmed from behind, walks alone down a city street. Toward the end of the film he momentarily and almost imperceptibly breaks from his public swagger into a little dance-like leap; a moment of apparent spontaneity that expands a formal definition of  dance. For the artist, Mark Bradford, the video also represents “all the Black bodies moving through public space in that vulnerability.” Shot in Los Angeles, the video’s title refers to a scene in the 1953 film Niagara and to the Niagara Movement, the organization founded by W.E.B. Du Bois and other civil rights activists in 1905.

Klara Liden uses her body expressively, often subjecting it to difficult, sometimes pointless, tasks. In Warm Up: Hermitage State Theatre she valiantly attempts to keep up with professional dancers in a practice class at the historic Hermitage Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. Having taken a few lessons before joining the class she does remarkably well, although she is clearly not a trained dancer.  Her attempts to keep up seem heroic and, as in much of her work, her movements seem both hilarious and terribly sad as she persists in pursuit of an unattainable goal.

The codified and complex movements of breakdancing, which sprang up from city streets in the 1970s, demands the same rigor and practice as classical ballet. In Breakdancing Step by Step # 2: Warm Up Glendalys Medina films their feet as they exercise them in preparation for dancing. In Breakdancing Step by Step: BabyFreezeFrame the artist repeatedly practices a basic “babyfreeze,” a move that professional “Step by Step” videos make appear easy. Medina’s videos focus on the feet and on the floor, key components in any dance form, and central to breakdancing.

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The quote by Mark Bradford is from Mark Bradford: Tomorrow is Another Day, exhibition brochure, Baltimore Museum of Art, 2018. Niagara was included in the biennial exhibition of contemporary art in Venice, Italy, in 2017, in which Bradford represented the United States. The presentation then travelled to Baltimore. Finnish Dance Instruction is included in “Dance Portrait Project,” a collaboration by Australian photographer/filmmaker, Rebecca Hobbs, that includes videos by performers from around the world. Warm Up: Hermitage State Theatre was made for the international exhibition, Manifesta 10, when it was held in St. Petersburg in 2014.