we were watercolor.


            It felt strange to dance in the art gallery alongside art that had remained still for many years, and would remain still for years to come. As a dancer, I felt more conscious of how alive I was, and how much my body moved. I felt like both a collaborator (fitting myself into the art on display, adding a new idea to the space) and a foreigner to the museum (I was new to being a piece of art: I was just visiting, just trying it out, unlike the sculptures who resided there permanently).

            A crowd gathered around us as we performed “Accumulation” below a Rothko painting. I wondered what drew them to us, when there were so many other things to look at in the museum. Why watch the dancers instead of sculptures? I think movement arrests the viewer’s attention in a different way. If you glance away from a painting or sculpture, it will still be there when you look back. But if you glance away from dance, you’ll miss something. Dancers are alive, and each second gives different information. I suppose you could have a similar experience of discovery when studying a painting, but while the discovery might take time, the discovery would not be bound to specific time, as it is with dance…so the audience watched us dance, even though we were surrounded by static masterpieces.

            Here is another way I’ve been thinking about the art gallery: placing Trisha’s choreography at the art gallery sets her alongside Rothko and ancient sculptors. But where does it place her dancers? It aligns us with stone, or paint. We are the materials that the artist molds. Using humans as your paint seems like a big risk. Humans don’t dry like paint on canvas, or hold  shape like stone sculptures. We forget, smile, stumble, and think for ourselves. Dance is a collaboration. If dancers really were paint, we would be some magical brand of self-propelling, never-drying watercolor on a wet surface—sometimes moving where the artist wants us to, sometimes getting mixed up, changing shape or color, creating something new.