Dance—the Ephemeral Art

Dance—the Ephemeral Art

Dance—the Ephemeral Art   by Brenda Pugh McCutchen August 1, 2016     “Mountains and trees were considered tangible, measurable, and verifiable while reflections were only colored light—lost from one moment to the next.”   –comment on a wall plaque in the Columbia Museum of Art exhibit associated with the Hudson River Valley art exhibit  which referred to the paintings’ watery reflections in the landscape as intangible bits of colored light (January 2012, Columbia, SC, USA). This memorable quotation reminds us that the art of dance is much the same way.  When we watch a dance, our eye follows the dancing body which is the tangible, measurable, and verifiable form we see.  However, in the process we can miss some of the nuance, the transitions between movements, the subtleties of motion that tend to get lost moment to moment by the viewer so that if we are not tuned into the spaces between the moves or to the small details between places in route to the most dynamic movements, we miss the “colored light” that surrounds the dance. Dance, the ephemeral visual art that exists only in each split second of the moment and then evaporates into the next, is the quintessential art.  It is made for the moment to experience fully as performer and as audience.  That is true due to two phenomena: 1) in dance the body transcends its own visceral self to become the art instrument, and 2) its medium is momentary-movement, so short-lived that it vaporizes into thin air as soon as it appears. What other art form can carry such reverence for life, such beauty of form,...