Introduction: Dancing is a verb that applies to nearly everyone and all aspects. People of many ages dance, animals dance, and so on. It’s something that all cultures do and a common element between them. We dance to celebrate life. We dance to exercise. We dance to portray emotions in a different way. We dance to entertain. We dance for many things, but we do dance. As observers of the world, several artists have portrayed this very action for centuries. Whether it be casual or formal, dancing is a reoccurring theme in art. In each of the artworks that I’ve included it shows a different part of dance. The images in this gallery start from the mental prep and practice beforehand to the onstage performance. Also, there is an artwork to represent other cultures. There are artworks also to show the simple spur of the moment dances. Dance is a universal term and so are these artworks ranging all over the world but brought together by a common action in this gallery.
Artwork 1 (Degas): This piece by Degas is portraying the mental preparation of dance before the actual formal performance. They are tying their shoes tight and checking their costumes. They're stretching. They're going through all the steps in their mind. Degas has portrayed this scene very precise and covering all the aspects that might happen before the show in the dressing room. In this piece, he used contre-jour lighting which blurred the details and erased the distinctive features of their faces or bodies. So we do not get to peer at the figures faces seeing their emotion but we have to conclude with their body structure and movement and overall feel of the painting. Also, he made the figures almost crowded and their tutus seem to be connected they are so close instead of on a large stage with plenty of space between one other. This is innovative in that way. He also did not use bright colors but kept them simple to really highlight the dancers.
Artwork 2 (Forain): This work by Jean-Louis Forain obvious from the title is located backstage. We see two dancers about to walk on stage to perform. Similar to Degas, we can’t read their emotion from their faces, but perhaps they are nervous while the man introduces them shying away to the wall or maybe they are confident in the dance they are going to perform and they are whispering to one another. The exact details are unclear. Like I said, it is similar to Degas in that the faces and outlines are blurred and not precise. Even the setting is not clearly defined. The bodies of the two dancers are not distinct either. They sort of mess into one, but he has added slightly different colors to each to distinguish. What is more clearly defined are their thin long legs. It can be seen that the anatomy of a dancer’s body was not an objective for the artist. It’s more of the scene itself and his interpretation of it as if he were standing to go on stage right after them. We can tell the use of light on the stage where one of the men are standing and the darkness of backstage which adds to the emotion and drama of the work.
Artwork 3 (Shinn): The White Ballet by Everett Shinn shows a dance performance from the audiences perspective. This is the heat of the moment. This exact moment is after they were dressed and preparing in Degas’s piece and even after the nervous jitters of backstage from Forain’s work. Now they are onstage in the bright lights, and dancing to what they have prepared for. I like how this piece is off centered so instead of just seeing a front row and then heads in the background we see individual bodies from the side. At one point we may even have to look around the woman painted sitting before us to see all the figures. Also, this piece is more detailed in the faces and bodies of the figures than in both previous works of art. The tutus are defined especially in the front and isn’t entirely a sea of white. He also highlighted the dancers by the stage lights and darkened the sitting audience except for the bright faces of the figures sitting before the viewer.
Artwork 4 (Kirchner): Kirchner help illustrates my point that dance can be a way of communication and expression for many cultures. Here he is showing, as in the title, Czardas dancers. This differs entirely from the previous artworks of classical ballet dancers with their white tutus. Their faces are more defined with features such as their eyes and lips. He even added bright makeup to go along their colorful costumes. He did not provide much attention to the details and anatomy of their bodies however. Also, these women are much more sensual than the dancers beforehand which may be conveying the culture. Kirchner believed that dancing put people in touch with their primitive urges which may also be a reason for the sensual portrayal. The artist used different emotions, settings, colors, and figures than most formal dancing artworks. It shows how our movements can simply be related and contrasted from other cultures.
Artwork 5 (Renoir): In Country Dance, we see an informal casual type interpretation of dancing. It’s as if the man so happy in their countryside vacation swept the woman ** and starting twirling her around while leaving a messy table and even a hat on the ground. They seem to be enjoying life and was captivated by the music. This differs highly from the artworks of formal dancers all in sequence and with precision. This dance is careless but pleasurable. The figures are clearly defined and we see the happiness on the woman’s face as the man holds onto her firmly leading the dance. He see his beard and stubble and his low gaze towards her. This is more of an intimate moment between two people than a sea of ballet dancers. This is a completely different perspective than the previous artworks because it shows the naturalism of dance and how it occurs in daily lives.
Artwork 6 (Mathews): This piece by Mathews also shows more of a natural dance than a precise practice one we saw in the ballet dancers of previous artworks in this gallery. This one shows a group of women casually dancing in what looks like a field while a figure in the background is playing a flute maybe and another is sitting. It seems as if they are all just enjoying the warm weather of spring and started to celebrate . The woman on the far left seems to sway with the wind and is so carefree while she looks to her friends to join her. And they do but more timidly. The figures in this work are more defined and do not have the blurriness of Degas and others' works. It even differs from Renoir's piece in the fact that we can see the curves of the bodies. In the woman on the far left, we can see which way her hips are swaying and almost anticipate her next move or direction. Also, the background is of more detail here than in the previous artworks. It shows a part of life in its simplest form, happiness through dance.