What do design and dance have in common?

Many years ago… well not so many, I was pursuing my Masters of Fine Arts at Iowa State University located at Ames, Ia. At the time, I was also learning Ballroom Dancing. While looking at a modern dance class, I thought to myself how gracious, flowing, and effortless their bodies moved around creating these ephemeral forms in the space. I thought when a photo is taken, you can freeze these forms and select which ones are more interesting. My curiosity led me to start thinking what if I combined dance forms and type design. When I talked to some of my professors, the initial reaction was “what do design and dance have in common?” I would say “everything.” From using the same design principles and elements, using the their bodies as the lines that are continually being created, thinking about how to use levels of spatial depth (high, low, and medium), to thinking about communicating an idea with their bodies, to me dance and design were if not cousins, very close related. But I still did not have an idea of what to do with it.

Around New Year’s in 2000, my then boyfriend and I were sent as a present to the MOMA in New York. At the time they had a show called “Modern Speaks.” In that show they were displaying works from Mondrian, Emil Ruder, and many others. There was a painting titled “A Russian Dancer” by Theo Van Doesburg. I was looking at it from farther when it hit me and I realized that more than planes and lines, it was a dancer. I approached the painting and saw his sketches and it was one of those aha! moments. I started thinking… what if the lines and planes that had been abstracted from a body in motion was used as a grid for type design? what if the body became a grid?

The idea followed me and I started experimenting. I took photos, drew, sketched, looked at videos, attended performances, bought dance movies such as Tango directed by Carlos Saura. When you look at this video try not looking at the dance as dance, but at the bodies and how these create forms in the space. You will find the answer to the question What do design and dance have in common?

Photo by brdonovan

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One Comment

  1. Claudia
    August 4
    Reply

    this is SOOOO cool. i already learned some things about you and your work. I can’t wait to see more. 🙂

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