Moving Principles & Elements --Ashlea Andrews

The art of dance is embraced through many cultures for many purposes.  An age old tradition, shunned in some eras, and embraced in others, dance is not only a physical form of expression, but an art.  The words that describe the formal elements of art, as well as the universal principles of design are the same words used to describe dance.  The following works, all from the late 1800’s, capture this expression, across various mediums and regions.

Using dynamic shapes, along with curved lines, Thoma depicts in this work a small group of children dancing in a circle. Focus is drawn to one girl specifically, as she is not only in the center of the painting, but also the only one turned around to face the viewer.
This piece depicts a symmetrical balance, of two women engaged in a sword dance, with positioning that is almost a reflection of one another. The lack of background, draws emphasis to the bright blue, green, and red hues that bring to life their dance. Curved lines accentuate great movement in the clothing of both women.
Renoir includes informal dance into a much larger social scene in this painting. In a style familiar to impressionists, short lines are used to create a cohesive image. A dynamic contrast repeats itself in the painting, using various tints and shades of rich hues. There does not appear to be one specific point of focus, but rather much variety, repeating in similar styles, creating a sense of unity (and celebration) throughout the painting.
In this work of Toulouse-Lautrec, there is a clear emphasis on the subject, a male dancer in the middle of what looks to be a restaurant. Bright color is used intermittently in areas other than the focus. The viewer can get a sense of space, through the artist's use of perspective, with sizes decreasing as they reach the background, creating depth. Short and curved lines, bring a sense of movement to the musician and dancer, while the rest of the subjects blend into the background.
As with much of his work, this piece depicts a group of ballet dancers, likely principles in the foreground, and a troupe in the background, on a performance stage. While many dancers are shown in the foreground, only one is in complete, drawing emphasis and attention to her. The dancers are unified by their similar costumes. While the dancers in the background are dressed in a different color, that hue appears in the skirt of the dancers in the foreground. The use of short and curved lines, creates a texture of wood on the floor, and a light airy tulle in the skirts of the costumes.
In the center of the work, Frost’s subject, a woman dancing with a tambourine, is the clear focus. Made almost entirely of curved lines, the movement of the woman can be seen in her body, as well as her skirt. While the woman’s face shows the most detail, it is hard for the eye to not be drawn to her skirt, where there seems to be the most movement.
In this piece by Gauguin, dance is an important element, but not necessarily the focus. While it is happening around the perimeter, the eye is first drawn to the saturated orange huge of the fire, accented with various shades and tints of red. The great fire is what gives contrast to an otherwise dark painting. The dancing can be seen as just as important, as it is the secondary focal point, with the dark images of the dancers, standing out against the light thrown by the fire.
In another Degas, ballet dancers are once again showcased, this time in a classroom setting, rather than performance. The eye can focus on the dance instructor in the middle of a great room (created with perspective), as the sea of girls surrounding him repeat throughout, in the similar white outfits. Varying lines create the realistic textures of a wooden floor, tulle skirts, and ornate fixtures on the walls of the room.
As stated in the title, this work depicts a seaside dancing celebration, complete with music. While the bright colors of the clouds and background draw the eye, the focus of the painting happens linearly in the foreground. The women dancing in the center, are balanced by observers on one side, and musicians on the other. The curved lines of their garments give way to the carefree dancing movements depicted by the artist. Between this movement, and the bright hues used, an atmosphere of celebration through dance is conveyed.
In this sketch of a model dancing, the artist utilizes curved lines in the fabric that is draped on her to convey the movement of dance. As the only subject in the drawing, the emphasis is solely on the woman. The short lines of shading behind her legs, as well as those coming from her arms, help the viewer envision the woman dancing with the fabric she has in her hand.
Credits: All media
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