“Many contemporary dancers are tired of the conventional theater space with its divided stage-audience structure. They seem eager to enter a shared space where audience and the objects on view coexist. In a performance, the objects, usually permanent and material, become time-based and immaterial — to the great interest of the museums.
In recent years, a new generation of dancers, above all the French choreographer and dancer Boris Charmatz, have attempted to redefine the role of the dancer as well as the time and space of dance performances in general. Charmatz’s project Musée de la Danse: Three collective Gestures (presented at Performa 13) dispersed more than 20 dancers throughout the museum where they reinterpreted movements of past and contemporary choreographies while interacting with the audience.
Charmatz, the French contemporary equivalent of, let’s say, William Forsythe, has long been well-known to European audiences. He became director of the Centre chorégraphique national de Rennes, Brittany, in 2009, and as one of his first actions in that post, he renamed the center the Musée de la danse (Dancing Museum). Critical of a dance education that only required him to read one book, Charmatz made it a priority to establish an archive for dance in Rennes that can be continuously rearranged, rethought, and revisited.
In Charmatz’s view, a museum should be dancing.
Charmatz is not alone in taking inspiration from dance history. Many of his fellow contemporary dancers and choreographers are basing their works on archival material — offering evidence that the “archive fever” prevalent in the visual arts has also reached the dance world. But it still remains difficult to find historical material on dance. Charmatz’s museum is one step into the right direction.
The other main concern of contemporary dancers, the audience, is also a focus of the Dancing Museum, which aims to activate its visitors and present different contemporary notions of dance and choreography in an immediate setting. The goal: to be more vivid and responsive than museums for visual art.
Parallel to the establishment of the museum, Charmatz wrote a “Manifesto for the Dancing Museum.” Like the museum itself, it is an invitation to fellow dancers, performers, curators, and, above all, the audience to rethink predetermined definitions of dance and to enter new grounds of experimentation and adventure.
The manifesto is based on Charmatz’s claim that dance centers are outdated since the idea that the body itself has a center belongs to the past. He urges the dance community to think outside of the conventional choreographer-interpreter-company framework and to create a more profound content for dance that is able to interact with other forms of contemporary art as well as with the audience.
The manifesto lists ten commandments dance-makers might consider when developing a museum-based performance intent upon creating a space of exchange, exuberance, and critical response. These points could be used as a checklist for dancers and museums alike when faced with the dance-in-a-museum-situation.”
Read more about dancers dancing in museum and practical applications of Charmatz’s manifesto here
More about Charmatz’s work at MOMA here