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Barbara Morgan. Spring on Madison Square. 1938. Gift of the artist.
  • MoMA, Floor 4, 409 The David Geffen Wing

This gallery borrows its title from that of a journal established in 1942 by Lincoln Kirstein—a cultural polymath who co-founded New York City Ballet and was a key figure in MoMA’s early history. Here, the term “dance index” is repurposed as a metaphor for photography, a means to record dancers’ poses and movement. Through the use of a camera, photographers and artists were uniquely positioned to respond to the rhythm and lines of mid-century dance, and they employed the tool to highlight choreography in the world around them.
These selected works move between the dance studio and the stage of the street, capturing steps and their sequences both in formal performance and in everyday movement. For her film In Paris Parks (1954), Shirley Clarke, who herself had trained with the dancer and choreographer Martha Graham, set the natural rhythms of the city’s parks—the card players and joyful children—to music. “You can make dance films without using dancers,” she later remarked.

Organized by Lucy Gallun, Curator, Department of Photography, with Rachel Rosin, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints & Curatorial Affairs, and Casey Li, 12-Month Intern, Department of Photography.

30 works online

Artists

Installation images

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

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