Magazine article Dance Magazine

Degas's Dance World. (News)

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Degas's Dance World. (News)

Article excerpt

By 1880, Edgar Degas was already known as "the painter of dancers." But this fall will mark the first major exhibition to place Degas's dance paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures--more than 50 percent of his output--in the context of nineteenth-century ballet in Paris. "Degas and the Dance" opens next month in Detroit and moves to Philadelphia in January.

Independent curators Jill DeVonyar, an art historian, classically trained dancer and teacher, and a specialist in late nineteenth-century French dance, and Richard Kendall, a noted Degas scholar, collaborated on the exhibit, which contains more than 100 dance works from nearly 100 museum and private collections. Its thematic organization (classroom, rehearsal, backstage, performance, portraits) and the inclusion of original costumes, maquettes, photos, and ballet-technique manuals make it of special interest to dance lovers, who will also find new identifications of dancers and dances Degas portrayed.

"My ideal," says DeVonyar, who trained in New York with Arlene Sugano (Joffrey), Robert Christopher (Ailey), and David Howard, "is for visitors to walk through the room and feel as if they are walking through the studio--to have the sense of what Degas would have experienced walking through the corridors, hearing the music and seeing the pointe shoes on the floor."

But what corridors did Degas walk? What ballets did he view and where? And how keen are his observations of dance and dancers? These are among the questions the curators tackled in their research, much of it conducted in the archives of the Paris Opera and in the Performing Arts Library of the New York Public Library.

DeVonyar and Kendall have placed Degas at the Hotel de Choiseul observing classes. (The building adjoined the old opera house on the rue le Peletier.) And, like other Opera full subscribers (those who sign up for three days per week), he enjoyed extraordinary freedom to roam the theater even during performances. …

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