According to conventional definitions, contemporary dance draws on both classical ballet and modern dance, whereas postmodern dance was a direct and opposite response to any pre-existing tradition. Pioneer Merce Cunningham is considered to be the first choreographer to develop an independent attitude towards modern dance and defy the ideas that were established by it. In 1944, musician John Cage observed that Cunningham’s dance, “No longer relies on linear elements. As in abstract painting, it is assumed that an element (a movement, a sound, a change of light) is in and of itself expressive; what it communicates is in large part determined by the observer themselves.” Embracing, subverting and at times entirely rejecting existing tropes of dance, today’s contemporary practitioners continue to expand the art form’s definitions. Spanning stage performers, choreographers, fine artists, movement directors and more, Something Curated highlights six boundary-pushing movement artists you should know.
Performance artist Michael-John Harper, who now resides in Berlin, was born in Jamaica in 1987, and moved to Florida, US at the age of eight, where he studied dance. He then joined the Alvin Ailey II Junior Dance Company in New York and in 2010 became a member of Company Wayne McGrgegor, where he remained until 2015. With a classically trained dance background, Harper has performed with esteemed concert dance companies and has also extended his knowledge of the body, into the art and fashion world. Working additionally as a movement director and model, Michael-John sees this as an extension of a language that is known and yet still being defined.
London-based artist Lotte Andersen works in video, print, sound, sculpture and performance. She constructs controlled social environments known as Capture Parties, building group durational performance works, using her acclaimed and now defunct night MAXILLA as the primary research. Her work Dance Therapy captured at Yinka Shonibare’s Guest Projects, is the most widely exhibited art work of this process, existing in its current iteration as a 5 channel video installation and ever evolving sound work. She has participated in and hosted artist talks at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Modern and Hannah Barry’s sculpture park Bold Tendencies, additionally contributing print work for Frieze and Galdem.
Jordan Robson is a movement director, choreographer and creative director working throughout fashion, film, music and theatre. Following his training at the renowned Rambert School and his career as a professional dancer, performing as a resident of Sadler’s Wells in London and on worldwide tours for choreographer’s such as Javier de Frutos, Christopher Wheeldon and Iván Pérez, Jordan’s work bridges the gap between dance and fashion. Bringing the art of contemporary movement into image making, he has choreographed for the likes of Tim Walker, David Sims and Jean-Paul Goude.
Paul Maheke’s practice imagines the body as an archive using movement as pathways to information and knowledge. This investigation occupies a metaphorical space wherein which the body resonates and echoes with the broader socio-political and historical contexts that have birthed it. With particular attention to dance, it proposes to rearticulate the representations of queer Blackness that emerge from Western imaginations by addressing history through non-human subjectivity. Maheke was born in France, completing an MA in Art Practice at l’École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts de Paris-Cergy in 2011, and he now lives and works in London.
Dominican-born Ligia Lewis is a choreographer and dancer. She gives form to movements, speech, affects, thoughts, relations, utterances, and the bodies that hold them. Her experientially rich works slide between the familiar to the unfamiliar, while being held together by the logics of interdependence, disorder, and play. Her work is shaped by meticulously crafted forms of embodiment. When these meet sonic and visual metaphors, they create space for the emergent and the indeterminate, while simultaneously tending toward the mundane. In considering the social inscriptions of the body, the enigmatic, the poetic, and the dissonant are materialised in her work.
British born dancer and performance artist Sophia Brown made her acting debut in Sister Act the Musical playing Cover Deloris in 2012. Classically trained in ballet, jazz and contemporary dance at The Arts Educational School, London, Brown incorporates her dance training with her acting work at every step, commenting, “It’s all movement.” Today, her film credits include A Battle in Waterloo, Disobedience, Beauty and the Beast and Genius, and she has been performing with the London-based Theo Adams Company since 2015.
Feature image: Paul Maheke. Sènsa performed at 58th Venice Biennale — Teatro Piccolo Arsenale. Venice, Italy. — © Marco Franceschin. Courtesy Delfina Foundation and Arts Council England.