A Summer of Movement & Rhythm at the Denver Art Museum

Rhythm & Roots: Dance in American Art inspires a summer-long celebration of dance

The Denver Art Museum (DAM) will showcase Dance!—a campus-wide celebration of creative expression through movement—featuring dance-focused exhibitions, programming and local artist collaborations, as well as interactive installations, to create an immersive and whimsical experience. Rhythm & Roots: Dance in American Art, an exhibition on view July 10–Oct. 2, 2016 in the Anschutz Gallery, will present how artists, dancers and choreographers helped form the artistic identity of dance in America. The exhibition will feature about 90 paintings, photographs, sculptures and costumes relating to American dance from 1830 to 1960.

George Caleb Bingham (American, 1811-1879), The Jolly Flatboatmen, 1846. Oil on canvas; framed: 46 x 56-5/8 x 4-1/8 in. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Patrons’ Permanent Fund. 2015.18.1

“This fusion of dance and fine art offers visitors a historical perspective on dance in America,” said Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director at the DAM. “Our exhibitions and summer programming will show how dance has evolved over time to create hallmark traditions. Visitors will be able to experience how artists captured the cultural, spiritual, emotional and artistic expressions of dance.”

Rhythm & Roots: Dance in American Art will showcase works by American artists from the 19th and 20th centuries, focused on addressing the first influences in American dance, how it evolved over time and how the distinct traditions of American dance came to be. The exhibition will also use objects to demonstrate the dialog between visual artists, dancers and choreographers. Multi-media features such as video, music and interactive spaces will bring to life the dynamic spectacle of motion and performance through art.

Curated locally by Angelica Daneo, curator of painting and sculpture at the DAM, and organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts, the exhibition will include paintings that portray dances throughout America’s diverse community, from the dances of indigenous North Americans, to Irish jigs and Spanish flamencos. Rhythm & Roots: Dance in American Art introduces how dance evolves from the private sphere to the public stage, showcasing new American dances and dance in the club. The exhibition explores the concept of the stage through artists’ historic fascination with and depiction of performers. Pieces featuring iconic American dancers such as Isadora Duncan, Katherine Dunham, Fred Astaire and Josephine Baker are included in the exhibition, as well as Spanish dancer Carmencita Dauset Moreno and Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova painted by American artists. The exhibition concludes with the convergence of artistry between visual artists and dancers where individuals like Diego Rivera and Andy Warhol collaborated with dance companies such as the American Ballet.

William Merritt Chase (American, 1849-1916), Carmencita, 1890. Oil on canvas; Framed: 80 ½ x 50 ¾ x 4 ¼ in. (204.5 x 128.9 x 10.8 cm.) Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Sir William Van Horne, 1906.

“The relationship between two forms of creative expression, dance and art, and the boundless commotion of rhythm and movement is captured through this dance exhibition,” said Daneo. “The artists’ ability to capture fleeting moments through a painting or a sculpture and their fascination with this subject will show how dance as an art form was and still is a vital part of American life and a constant source of inspiration.”

Rhythm & Roots: Dance in American Art is a traveling exhibition. It was previously on view at the Detroit Institute of Arts and travels after it is on display at the DAM to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas. A richly illustrated exhibition catalog will be available in The Shop at the Denver Art Museum, featuring essays by art historians and dance specialists. The exhibition is included in general admission. As part of the Free for Kids program, admission for youth 18 and younger is free.

Rhythm & Roots: Dance in American Art has been organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts. Support is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional support has been provided by an ADAA Foundation Curatorial Award and the Association of Art Museum Curators. Local support is provided by Adolph Coors Exhibition Endowment Fund, the generous donors to the Annual Fund Leadership Campaign and the citizens who support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). Promotional support is provided by 5280 Magazine, CBS4 Comcast Spotlight and The Denver Post.

The theme of Dance! will be carried through additional summer exhibitions and programs:

Why We Dance: American Indian Art in Motion will present the motives behind Native American dance and how dance impacts the arts in paintings, featuring about 86 works, including 78 drawn from the DAM’s permanent collection. Curated by Nancy Blomberg, chief curator and curator of Native Arts at the DAM, as well as John Lukavic, associate curator of Native Arts, and guest curator Russ Tallchief, this multi-sensory exhibition will open with large-scale, dance-themed portraits from the 1939 San Francisco World’s Fair by Charles Loloma, Jose Duran and Ignacio Moquino.

Dan Namingha (Tewa/Hopi, born 1950), Hopi Eagle Dancer, 1995. Acrylic paint on canvas. 47 ¾ x 47 ¾ in. Denver Art Museum: Gift of Virginia Vogel Mattern, 2003.1296. © Dan Namingha.

Why We Dance: American Indian Art in Motion also will use dance, sound and video to feature the museum’s annual powwow celebration. Mohawk artist Alan Michelson will bring visitors into a dancing circle through his Round Dance video art installation, featuring 12 video monitors allowing visitors to join in on a form of dance used as social protest over tribal sovereignty issues. The exhibition also will feature historical pieces from the DAM’s American Indian art collection and contemporary dance regalia from the regional Native American community, calling attention to details and materials.

Painting and drawings will open the window to specific native dances such as animal dances, healing dances and rites of passage primarily found in the Plains region and the American Southwest. On view from May 29–Aug. 15, 2016 in the Gallagher Gallery, local exhibition support is provided by the Osage Nation Foundation.

John Sorbie, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, 1974. Offset lithograph. © John Sorbie. Gift of Julie Roche, Amy Sorbie, and Judy Sorbie-Dunn. 1999.261

Performance on Paper: The Posters of Phil Risbeck and John Sorbie is curated by Darrin Alfred, architecture, design and graphics curator. The exhibition features the graphic works of internationally acclaimed Colorado designers Phil Risbeck and the late John Sorbie. About 30 posters, spanning a 30-year period from the 1960s to the 1990s, announced a constant stream of performances, including dance, theatre, opera and film at Colorado State University. The exhibition will highlight Risbeck and Sorbie’s expressive techniques, such as high-contrast photography, collage and photomontage, hand-drawn illustrations and their innovative use of the split fountain technique. These eye-catching works that captured the essence of an event through energetic imagery and restrained typography will be on view in the Gates Family Gallery from July 10, 2016–Jan. 8, 2017.

Grand Gestures: Dance, Drama, Masquerade features 29 pre-Columbian objects from the DAM’s extensive collection and is curated by Margaret Young-Sánchez, Frederick & Jan Mayer Curator of Pre-Columbian Art. The exhibition is full of human and supernatural figures in dramatic poses, as well as objects such as plates and drinking vessels. Some of the objects clearly portray dance, while others appear to represent singing, oratory, drama and ritual. This exhibition is currently on view on level 4 of the North Building in the pre-Columbian gallery and will be on view through Dec. 11, 2016.

Maya, Vessel with Mythological Figures, about A.D. 600–900. Guatemala; northern Petén. Earthenware with colored slips. Gift of Dr. M. Larry and Nancy B. Ottis, 2006.233

#dancelab, created by local artistic dance partners Wonderbound and creative firm Legwork Studio, will encourage visitors to move rhythmically to a sequence of dance steps inspired by iconic American films and choreographed exclusively for this installation by Wonderbound. This immersive, participatory movement experience will focus on celebrating American dance and deconstructs the dance experience to make it accessible to all. Visitors who participate will see their movements projected in a large format and combined with other visitor’s movements for a collective dance experience. Visitors inspired to stay connected beyond their onsite experience in the Martin and McCormick gallery will be encouraged to use #dancelab on social media. This creative dance installation opens July 10, 2016 in the Martin and McCormick Gallery.

Movement Studio will explore how artists express and are inspired by movement through different mediums and techniques. The studio will include three distinct hands-on activity areas to explore and experiment with motion in unique ways. The Movement Studio opens June 4, 2016 and will feature demonstrations by local creatives each weekend. The Movement Studio is generously supported by The R&J Newman Family Foundation.

Martin Plaza will be transformed into a whimsical movement experience where passersby and visitors can interact with an immersive ribbon installation designed by Demiurge. Free dance performances will be offered on the plaza throughout the summer. Plaza programs are generously supported by the PB and K Family Foundation.

Untitled Final Fridays present unconventional art experiences on the final Friday of the month, providing visitors with new insight into the DAM’s collection. Untitled events also offer artmaking activities, performances, music and more thanks to Your 6 Hometown Toyota Stores. During the Dance! themed summer, Untitled will present a dance-related series:

Untitled: In-Sync, July 29, 6–10 p.m.

Gather your crew and band together for a night of synchronized moves and creative Collaborations.

Untitled: Center Stage, Aug. 26, 6–10 p.m.

Soak up the spotlight and strut your stuff with dance-offs, divas and artistic showstoppers.

Untitled: Stop Motion, Sept. 30, 6–10 p.m.

Curtain call for the Untitled summer series, with a final look at dance, photography and artworks expressing time.

Media Resources

The Denver Art Museum is an educational, nonprofit resource that sparks creative thinking and expression through transformative experiences with art. Its holdings reflect the city and region—and provide invaluable ways for the community to learn about cultures from around the world. Metro citizens support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), a unique funding source serving hundreds of metro Denver arts, culture and scientific organizations. For museum information, call 720-865-5000 or visit www.denverartmuseum.org.