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In the past several years, the art world has embraced dance as never before, with myriad exhibitions, film screenings, performances, residencies, even acquisitions. Many are asking why—Why dance? Why now?
Colloquia are convened to answer the question. Articles are written. I’ve asked the question myself—to my students in a course I teach called Dance, Art, and Film—especially when teaching the course coincided with my participation as interlocutor of Deborah Hay and Sarah Michelson in the Museum of Modern Art’s atrium series Some Sweet Day, organized by choreographer Ralph Lemon.
My approach to the question is personal, a self-interrogation. As someone who loved to dance (as a social dancer; where I grew up there was no such thing as professional dancing) and loved dance (as a spectator; I was hooked from the moment I saw the Merce Cunningham Company in 1970), I hadn’t thought of it as a question. But now that it is being so insistently posed as a question—and now that I have begun to write about dance—I, too, want to answer it.
“Agon,” a chapter of my memoir Before Pictures, concerns my encounter with the ballets of George Balanchine at the same moment in the late 1970s when I was immersed in poststructuralist theory and organized the Pictures show. I didn’t think “seriously” about dance until much more recently, in 2004, when I taught a course on Yvonne Rainer. Soon enough my main preoccupation became dance.
I wonder if I can say why dance.
— Douglas Crimp
Douglas Crimp is Fanny Knapp Allen Professor of Art History at the University of Rochester and the author of On the Museum’s Ruins, 1993; Melancholia and Moralism: Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics, 2002; and “Our Kind of Movie”: The Films of Andy Warhol, 2012. He has recently published essays on choreographers Merce Cunningham, Yvonne Rainer, and Trisha Brown. He is currently completing a memoir of New York in the 1970s called Before Pictures.