Yvonne Rainer Pat Catterson Keith Sabado Emily Coates in Assisted Living

Particis Hoffbauer, Emmanuelle Phuon, Yvonne Rainer, Pat Catterson, Keith Sabado, Emily Coates in Assisted Living: Do you have any money? Danspace, New York, 2013
© Yvonne Rainer

What can dance offer the museum in the way of value, movement, time, materiality, permanence?

  • Value: A new audience, an expansion of art history and curatorship
  • Movement: Lots of it.
  • Time: Ephemerality
  • Materiality: Documentation
  • Permanence: Memory and documentation

What can (or should) the museum offer dance in the way of value, movement, time, materiality, permanence?

  • Value: A living wage (or more, in accordance with art world economic norms), prestige, validation
  • Movement: Lots of it
  • Time: Ephemerality
  • Materiality: Documentation, default décor (dancing with the collection), sprung flooring, dressing rooms, comfortable seating for spectators
  • Permanence: Archival documentation, residencies for choreographers

There are good reasons that some museums are now incorporating theatres into their new expansions. Facing the limitations of existing museum spaces for dance, curators and choreographers have begun to ask basic questions – from the perspectives of spectator’s, performer’s, and institution’s perspectives – regarding the integration of dance into museum programmes and exhibitions. The fixed seating and schedules of the black box or comparable theatricalised space, can offer, for those of us so inclined, an end to the distractions of wandering museum-goers and the ‘default décor’ of painting and sculpture installation.

What might a ‘dancing museum’ look like?

Multiple spaces of varying sizes, at least one with retractable bleachers and a conventional lighting grid. Some of the spaces are connected so that simultaneous events can take place, enabling spectators to move from one to the other, perhaps carrying their folding chairs or large pillows with them. The size of these spaces can be altered with walls that can be erected and/or taken down, rolled away or placed in unconventional (a hide-and-seek dance event?). Some of the spaces are tiny, the activities within only accessible through peepholes. For those choreographers interested in the ‘default décor’ of the museum’s collection, moveable sprung floor sections should be made available. The laying down and taking up of the sections can constitute part of a dance. At all times some sort of seating must be made available, ranging from folding chairs to sofas and divans and stools. The larger pieces of furniture should be on wheels so that performers can wheel audience members into different viewing positions. I envision a dance in which spectator ‘handlers’ move the sofas about. The sofas can also be made available to the performers for moments of rest. (Some of us are ageing faster than others.)