Boris Charmatz performing in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall for Musee de la danse
Boris Charmatz perfoming in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, 2015

What would a Dancing Museum look like, and how would you move through its rooms? On 15th and 16th May, as part of BMW Tate Live, Tate Modern will become Musée de la danse in a weekend of dance, performance and audience interaction in response to this question. The whole takeover will be live-streamed, and the programme is presented jointly by Sadler’s Wells.

Boris Charmatz performing in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall for Musee de la danse
Boris Charmatz performing in the Turbine Hall, 2015

Through this question, Boris Charmatz anticipates that Tate Modern will come alive - the space reimagined and reinterpreted - physically, for two days only, but creating the momentum to propel that question out in to the wider world, carried forward by the audience and performers themselves. The intention is that this will change the viewing behaviour of visitors, and encourage them to reconsider the museum as a space filled with potential.

The Musée de la danse exists already of course, as a living, breathing institution in Rennes, where Charmatz took up his post as Director in 2009, renaming it from Centre chorégraphique national de Rennes et de Bretagne. During his tenure, he has pioneered a programme of innovative performance to challenge the social conventions that are familiar to us all. Collaborating with a number of other practitioners from art and theory, he investigates personal space and proximity (À bras-le-corps, 1993) and (enfant, 2011) the most human of actions undertaken by all – eating (manger 2014), the museum collection (20 dancers for the XX century), and the vision of a Musée de la danse itself (expo zero). As a visionary artist, choreographer, dancer and curator, Charmatz’s Manifesto for a Dancing Museum states:

We are at a time in history where a museum can be alive and inhabited as much as a theatre, can include virtual space, and offer contact with dance that can be at the same time practical, aesthetic and spectacular…

Charmatz calls dance ‘the most ephemeral of cultural forms’ and ultimately this raises the issue of permanence. Objects in a museum or a gallery have been created, placed and must remain untouched; sometimes behind glass, in a frame, behind a barrier for their own protection. What then, of dance? Can it be owned? Can it be part of a collection belonging to an institution or nation? Are any two performances of a piece ever the same? This project aims to challenge the idea of how art, dance and performance is consumed and experienced by an audience. One institution inhabiting another. 

This museum intends to be an introduction, an appetiser, a place for enhancing public awareness of dance and choreographic culture in the broadest sense, of the history of the body and its representations.


And so to the live element; in an age where the expanding digital sphere acts as a legitimate platform, we can invite a truly global audience through our doors, and on to the front row of performances in the most iconic building in London. We can discuss and respond in real time to your observations and questions, and in this respect, the museum is changing. The museum is dancing.

See the schedule of performances for the weekend takeover

 Join the conversation using #DancingMuseum

If Tate Modern was Musée de la danse? is a collaboration between Catherine Wood, Curator, Contemporary Art and Performance, Tate Modern; Capucine Perrot, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern; Boris Charmatz, Director, Musée de la danse / Centre chorégraphique national de Rennes et de Bretagne; Martina Hochmuth, Director of Productions and the Musée de la danse team.

Produced by Judith Bowdler, Production Co-ordinator, Tate Modern, with Steve Wald, freelance production manager, assisted by Roanne Hathaway, Administrator, Tate Modern, and Jessica Ziskind, Curatorial Intern.

BMW Tate Live is curated by Catherine Wood, Curator, Contemporary Art and Performance, Tate and Capucine Perrot, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern