We tend to think in the traditional mode that classical ballet and paintings from the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) are elite art forms for a particular audience but in fact they belong to our common shared humanity. It should be easily experienced and enjoyed by all, especially in what is known as the public square. For example, the business district of Media as a county seat is part of the cultural mosaic of the region. It enjoys a delightful blend of art galleries, superb theatres, poetry readings, and musicians but so far no outdoor ballet and no outdoor paintings. Suddenly, the PMA’s Inside|Out regional program shifted the esthetic paradigm.
With engaging smiles and artistic energy, the dancers began their visit by gathering near the Grecian pillars of the Media County Court House to form intertwining symmetric patterns, and what seemed to be an endless display of classical poses to prepare for their visit to each of the paintings beginning with Paul Cézanne’s Mont Sainte-Victoire. Extending arms and legs with elegant ease, each dancer asserted their unique personality within the tapestry and the traditions of classical ballet. With unspoken movements they united in each shared pose yet asserted their individuality in their togetherness. With each movement of supple foot work and each classical pose their heads turned, arms were gracefully raised as if responding to the music of wistful chords embedded in the paintings.
Slowly drivers focused on traffic, busy pedestrians and others came upon the colorful visit. They paused and stopped to view a spontaneous cultural experience unfold around them. Many applauded and took photos. Motorists pulled their cars to the curb to watch. I marveled at how classically trained ballet dancers could transform the moments of a monotonous afternoon and quickly and quietly engage so many busy strangers who clearly had a desire for a cultural experience that featured images of masterpiece paintings and live ballet dancers. What made their visit truly unique was the visual three-dimensionality of the moment. In a theater the audience members are seated and must look straight ahead. In the open air and sidewalks of Media, passersby were offered a multi-dimensional ballet experience. They could walk around the dancers to see the poses and the art work from many angles.
In the words of Co-Artistic Directors Denis Gronostayskiy and Anastasia Babayeva, “Whether on stage, in the studio or here in the public eye, we want our dancers to sense that after years of training they can open a little emotional door in their soul and share with the public a peek into Heaven. The language of ballet is one of dramatic gesture and by bringing them to pose with these beautiful paintings from the Phila. Museum ballet of Art the world of ballet visually enhances the message of the artists.”
A message from our ballet dancers.
The dancers at AIB express appreciation and applause to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) for their innovative public art initiative titled Inside | Out and for selecting our town of Media to share so many beautiful high quality reproductions from their collection. Each pose and gesture by our dancers is our way, in the world of ballet, to spontaneously and creativity interact with and recognize the genius of each artist on display. Our photos taken with the art work reminds all of us that Art is one way we can remember what is valuable by working against day to day habits. Art invites us to revaluate what we love and admire. Please note-two walking tours are scheduled by the PMA for Sun July 30, at 11 am and Wed Aug 9, at 5 pm. Tours will start at the Media-Upper Providence Free Library at Front and Jackson Streets and will last 1 hour. For additional information and a street map on this exhibit from the Media Arts Council please visit http://mediaartscouncil.org/events/insideout-philadelphia-museum-of-art-public-art-initiative-in-media/
Photo credit: Denis Gronostayskiy