Thomas F. DeFrantz: Dancing the Museum

From Dancing in Museums: A Decade of Movement

In this 2017 lecture at the Musée des Beaux Arts in Montreal, the scholar and artist Thomas F. DeFrantz frankly addresses the hierarchical relationship between museums and theaters and between visual art and dance. “Dancers, tastemakers, and general publics view museums as generally stable sites of real estate,” he says, “inherently more important than the civic theaters and community centers where theatrical dance usually happens.” The museum, he adds, “offers an inevitably preferable mode of social recognition.” Underscoring that dance in museums is not new, he traces its shifting presence by style over time: from modern to postmodern to contemporary, and so on.

In discussing his own experience of dancing in museums, DeFrantz notes some of the basic logistical issues that can diminish the experience of both performers and viewers: for instance, a shortage of seating or inadequate space to warm up. An extended version of the talk appears as a chapter in the 2019 volume Curating Live Arts and delves deeper into questions about curatorial training and expertise; it is well worth seeking out.

December 6, 2019

Curated by

Siobhan Burke