Ashley Chen in 20 Dancers for the XX Century at The Museum of Modern Art, 2013. Part of Musée de la danse: Three Collective Gestures (October 18–November 3, 2013). Photograph © 2013 The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

Musée de la danse: Three Collective Gestures is a three-week dance program in The Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium, conceived by French choreographer Boris Charmatz (b. 1973) in collaboration with his groundbreaking Musée de la danse. In 2009, Charmatz became director of the Centre chorégraphique national de Rennes et de Bretagne in northwestern France, which he promptly renamed Musée de la danse (the “Dancing Museum”). Charmatz’s idea was to articulate a notion of dance divested of notions of choreography and “the center.” Through this gesture, as in his broader practice, Charmatz emphasized the museum as a space not just for predetermined, scripted movement and exhibition, but as a dancing institution—replete with exuberance, surprise, affective response, and shifting forms and margins, all firmly rooted in the present tense and available for critical inquiry and revision. Charmatz’s idea of a museum as the framing device for dance (the most ephemeral of cultural forms) redefines the very notions of museum and collection.

As he puts it in his “Manifesto for the Dancing Museum” (2009), “We are at a time in history where a museum can modify BOTH preconceived ideas about museums AND one’s ideas about dance… In order to do so, we must first of all forget the image of a traditional museum, because our space is firstly a mental one. The strength of a museum of dance consists to a large extent in the fact that it does not yet exist.”

Since then, Charmatz and his team have been carving out new and radical ways of interpreting the history, and imagining the future, of dance through the invention of a new kind of public space. The various formats of Musée de la danse are intended as open protocols available for experiment, change, and appropriation, enabling unpredictable events and gestures.

Over the course of three consecutive weekends, American and European dancers and performers will engage in three different projects, each reflecting on how dance can be thought through the museum and vice versa. The subtitle “Three Collective Gestures” suggests the importance of collaboration, participation, and transmission to all the three projects—as well as the interdisciplinary nature of Musée de la danse—challenging preconceived notions of dance.

I. 20 Dancers for the XX Century

20 Dancers for the XX Century (2012/13) presents a living archive. Twenty performers from different generations perform, recall, appropriate, and transmit acclaimed yet forgotten solo works of the last century that were originally conceived or performed by some of the most significant modernist and postmodernist dancers, choreographers, and performance artists. Each performer presents his or her own museum, where the body is the ultimate space for the dance museum. Hence there is neither a stage nor a demarcation of performance space. Rather, the performers circulate freely between the Museum’s Marron Atrium, the galleries, and other public spaces.

Performers: Magali Caillet-Gajan, Ashley Chen, Jim Fletcher, Brennan Gerard, Trajal Harrell, Burr Johnson, Lénio Kaklea, Catherine Legrand, Morgan Lugo, Richard Move, Mani A. Mungai, Banu Ogan, Leiomy Prodigy, Christopher Roman, Shelley Senter, Valda Setterfield, Gus Solomons, John Sorensen-Jolink, Meg Stuart, Adam Weinert

The performance took place in the second-floor Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium and other gallery spaces on Friday, October 18, 12:00–5:00 p.m.; Saturday, October 19, 12:00–5:00 p.m.; and Sunday, October 20, 12:00–5:00 p.m.

II. Levée des conflits extended/Suspension of Conflicts Extended

Choreographed by Charmatz in 2010, this work is comprised of 25 movements performed continuously by 24 dancers. The gestures circulate from body to body, with at least one movement left "undanced" at any given moment. Through many singular actions, tensions are teased out between stillness and movement, living body and sculptural object, choreographic authorship and embodied collectivity. For the first time at the Museum, the work will be presented as it was originally intended: as a durational piece. Extended during Museum opening hours, the piece is conceived as a hybrid form of choreographic exhibition and installation.

Performers: Or Avishay, Matthieu Barbin, Eleanor Bauer, Magali Caillet-Gajan, Ashley Chen, Carlye Eckert, Kerem Gelebek, Gaspard Guilbert, Christophe Ives, Taoufiq Izeddiou, Dominique Jégou, Lénio Kaklea, Jurij Konjar, Élise Ladoué, Stéphanie Landauer, Catherine Legrand, Filipe Lourenço, Naiara Mendioroz, Thierry Micouin, Alex Mugler, Andreas Albert Müller, Mani A. Mungai, Banu Ogan, Elise Olhandeguy, Qudus Onikeku, Felix Ott, Annabelle Pulcini, John Sorenson-Jolink
Sound designer: Olivier Renou

The performance took place in the second-floor Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium on Friday, October 25, 12:00–5:00 p.m.; Saturday, October 26, 12:00–5:00 p.m.; and Sunday, October 27, 12:00–5:00 p.m.

III. Flip Book

Flip Book (2008/13) revisits David Vaughan's 1997 book Fifty Years, which charts Merce Cunningham's choreography over half a century. In the past, Charmatz invited different groups of dancers—from ex-members of Cunningham's company to amateur practitioners—to learn and perform Vaughan's images as a sped-up version of Cunningham's language, exploring contemporary movement, its reliance on information, and its complex histories. Inherent in this piece is an interest in documentation, archives, and scores, which is extremely relevant to today’s performance landscape. For the MoMA edition, six dancers—including one ex-Cunningham dancer—start at 12:00 p.m. to warm up and rehearse in the Marron Atrium, interact with the audience, and perform the piece at 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. Flip Book is part of Performa13.

Performers: Boris Charmatz, Ashley Chen, Raphaëlle Delaunay, Christophe Ives, Lénio Kaklea, Mani A. Mungai, Valda Setterfield Sound designer: Olivier Renouf Lighting technician: Maël Iger

The performance took place in the second-floor Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium on Friday, November 1, 12:00–5:00 p.m.; Saturday, November 2, 12:00–5:00 p.m.; and Sunday, November 3, 12:00–5:00 p.m.

Organized by Ana Janevski, Associate Curator, with Jill A. Samuels, Performance Producer, Martin Hartung and Leora Morinis, Curatorial Assistants, Department of Media and Performance Art, The Museum of Modern Art.

In collaboration with Boris Charmatz, Director, Musée de la danse/Centre chorégraphique national de rennes et de Bretagne, and the Musée de la danse team.

The project is made possible by MoMA’s Wallis Annenberg Fund for Innovation in Contemporary Art through the Annenberg Foundation.

The Museum acknowledges support from the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States.

Additional funding is provided by the MoMA Annual Exhibition Fund.

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