10 Wonderful Examples of How Art and Dance Combine
Capturing the sensation of movement on a two-dimensional canvas has long proved both a challenge and an inspiration for artists and photographers alike. The human form in motion, especially when dancing, remains one of nature’s most compelling visions and, throughout the years, creatives have sought to translate that magic to a still form. Here are ten talents, historical and contemporary, whose work has explored this area, in myriad and fascinating ways.
“I like wandering around towns and streets, marvelling about how we, human beings, live,” says photographer David Hicks, whose striking pictures of tango players and dancers perfectly capture the dramatic energy of that music. He has been described as a photographer with “the common touch” — able to perfectly connect with his subjects, and thereby evoke the everyday magic to be found. There is a palpable sense of motion and energy in his work, which is a delight to see.
Film-maker and photographer Mohamed Taher, in collaboration with fellow photographer Ahmed Fathy, are the artists behind the stunning Ballerinas of Cairo project, in which the two seek to explore new perspectives of the ancient Egyptian city and to celebrate its diversity. Cairo’s beautiful and historic architecture serves as an eye-catching backdrop to the acrobatic dancers.
Based in Hockley, England, painter Brian Parker covers many topics in his work. Parker himself states in his official bio: “I am driven by the need to appeal to the visual sense of my viewers, so the aesthetic impact it has on the viewer is more important to me than any particular theme.” That said, dance is clearly of particular appeal. His series of paintings capturing figures in motion feature bold, striking colours. The forms of the dancers in Parker’s paintings often overlap and envelop each other.
Jordan Matter is another creative on this list whose passion for photography bloomed late. Enjoying a successful career in acting, it wasn’t until he attended an exhibit by photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson that Matter turned to that medium. What began as a hobby soon turned into a passion, and then a career. His striking images capture dancers performing in public places, from subways to super-markets, which performers often juxtaposed against pedestrian onlookers.
Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa, to give the French artist his full name, is celebrated for his paintings which capture aspects of theatrical and “low” life in Paris during the late nineteenth century. Born into an aristocratic family, and suffering from a medical condition which left him with undersized legs, Lautrec clearly identified as an outsider. He had a fascination for brothels and prostitutes, but it is his paintings of ballet and dancers which earned his enduring fame.
Scottish painter Jack Vettriano ranks among the best-selling and most famous of British painters, thanks largely to his highly distinctive and immediately recognisable style, together with the stylish and elegant subject matter of his work. Born into poverty, Vettriano suffered a harsh early life, leaving school at sixteen and working as a mining engineer, before a gift of a watercolour set, on his twenty-first birthday, set him on the road to international recognition. Among his most-loved creations are pictures of couples dancing, including “Rumba in Black,” “Dance Me to the End of Love,” “Tango Dancers,” “Take This Waltz” and “Waltzers.”
French impressionist artist Degas devoted more than half of his work to the subject of dance. Degas was a superb draughtsman, drawer and sculptor, but it is his paintings capturing human figures in movement, such as “Ballet at the Paris Opera,” for which he is best known. Degas was classically trained, studying fine art and art history. He initially desired to become a “history painter,” charting famous moments from mythology and history, before changing course in his early thirties.
Visual artist Beverly Brown spent many years as a photographer, before an encounter with the works of Sargent and Homer at the Brooklyn Museum sparked a lasting love of the medium of watercolours. Brown also embraces paste, and digital painting. Her style is highly romantic and poetic. Brown’s series of sketches and paintings of dancing figures portray a hazy, ethereal beauty which will leave a lasting impression.
German-born Ernst Oppler came from a family of creatives. His father, Edwin, was a successful architect, his brother Alexander a notable sculptor. Ernst studied at the Academy of Arts in Munch, before moving to London and later Holland. His visits to the Russian ballet stirred a life-long interest, and Ernst visually documented many of these performances. His paintings of dances often possess a dreamy, otherworldly feel, and are striking both for their delicacy and their sense of movement.
Based in New York City, photographer Omar Z Robles states that his creative interests started with one man: mime artist Marcel Marceau. According to Robles official bio, the work of the legendary mime showed Robles how subtle, but riveting movements could capture a viewer’s interest. Robles photograph features dancers against city backdrops, from New York to Cuba and Mexico. The figures in Robles work seem, at times, to defy gravity itself.