The Relationship between Art, Dance and the Human Body in Nature
Since the dawn of humanity, art and the dance constituted the earliest form of communication, depicted on cave walls and hieroglyphics. The first cave dwellers used campfire dance references as one of the first means of communication, creating primitive forms of art. The drawings were used to narrate stories of the past. Throughout the millennium humans were able to find expression through dance and record, through art, the symbolism of dance. In this way, art has been the basic communication method to document and portray the interaction of humans through dance within scenes of nature.
Art displaying dance in nature has been ever linked with primal love, beauty and fertility. It was thought that Mother Nature needed to be satisfied through fertility rituals and dances which were recorded in artwork. In Africa, where the earliest traces of humanity were discovered, there continues to be a sense of nature, fertility, and dance etched in pottery and painted on skins. In Tanzania, the Sandawe men and women promote fertility through an erotic dance by moonlight which is ever depicted in their daily art, pottery and lifestyle. Similarly in Haiti, possession of individual souls is achieved through a form of erotic dance painted in local art.1
Artistic enactment of erotic dance interacting and within nature is ever prevalent in every culture and captured in numerous art works and depictions. Dance and art have been essential elements for the propagation of cultures, societies and civilizations. Famous is the portrayal of seduction and rape of Sabine women, during the festival of the Neptune Equester 2, by the founders of Rome, needing to satisfy urgent human needs and population growth. The scene has been celebrated through numerous artistic mediums, including modern dance productions, sculptures and paintings over the centuries, documenting the creation of the one of the world greatest empires.
The Intervention of the Sabine Women (1799), Jaques-Louis David
Rape of the Sabine Women by Pietro da Cortona 1627 – 1629
In Romanian culture, the “Hora”, a traditional folk dance, celebrates nature and life. This ritual dance is performed against the backdrop of surrounding woods and mountains, gathering darkness under the light of a campfire.
Bella Bartok Romanian Folk Dances, Rite of Spring 1902
The connection between human interplay in the dance and nature conveys feelings of happiness and euphoria which resonates with the viewer. Dance lends influence and inspiration to art through movement of the form in the environment and its shadows.
In addition, the uniqueness of various cultures, costumes and landscape create a setting that is original and cannot be duplicated, copies or imitated in any other place. They are unique to the time, setting, place, movement, feeling and impression of the artist, capturing the spirit and form of the scenery. It is this sense of dance and art that provides the vision that is captured on canvas.
The Nymphs, Claudia Kusznirczuk
Queen of the Roses, Claudia Kusznirczuk
In the ‘Nymphs’, I took inspiration from Sânziene which is an annual festival honoring the dance of the fairies. The name comes from the Latin “Sancta Diana”, the goddess of the hunt, celebrated in Roman Dacia (ancient Romania). People in the Western Carpathian mountains of Romania celebrate the Sânziene on the 24th June. This is similar to the Swedish Midsummer holiday, a celebration of the summer solstice.3
Henri Matisse and Edvard Munch inspired both “Nymphs’’ and ‘’Queen of the Roses”. Matisse’s intertwining of nature, body, and dance creates a mesmerizing image in “The Dance”.
Henri Matisse, The Dance, 1909
Viewers can observe five distinct nude dancing figures appearing in a pronounced pink colour, placed against a very simplified green landscape and deep blue sky. During an interview with the French journalist Estienne on April 12th, 1909, Matisse said:
"that he saw painting as an invocation, as an appeal for serenity, concentration and peace of mind. ‘’This,’’ he went on, ‘’should be achieved by the simplest, by the minimum of means…three colours for the large panel’’.4
Matisse’s piece draws a fascination with primitive art and he uses a classic Fauvist colour pallet. Brilliant utilisation of an intense warm mix of colours against the bluish green background and the circular rhythmical swirl of dancing nudes imply the feelings of emotional liberation and hedonism.
Edvard Munch has equal influence in my work because he was a thinker and poet and his work was more formalist.
"The Dance of Life, which Munch painted in 1900, takes place on a bright summer night along the shore of Aasgaardstrand in Oslo Fjord. Lit by a full moon, couples engage in an energetic dance. The phallic reflection on the moonlight in the water gives the scene a mood of sexuality."(Roman Jaster)
Edvard Munch, The Dance of Life, 1900
Munch described this painting:
"I danced with my first love - the painting was based upon these memories. ‘’The smiling, small blond woman enters-she wants to pick the flower of love - but it escapes her grasp. On the other side of the painting she appears dressed in black mourning clothes, looking at the dancing couple-she is an outcast-just like me. Rejected from the dance. Behind her, the dancing mob moves like a storm in one another’s arms’’.5
Roman Jaster6 wrote:
"Munch’s painting The Dance of Life can be interpreted from various viewpoints and on various levels. The transition of the female figures from adolescence to sexual maturity to old age gives argument that the painting deals with the everlasting cycle of life. In this “bright summer night”, Munch writes “life and death, day and night go hand in hand” (Messer). Indeed, death is the birth of life, and Munch realizes this. ‘’Munch expresses his awareness about the biological cycle of human existence by the way he dissolves the figures into the landscape, as if their destiny is indivisible from the higher rhythm of nature."
Throughout human evolution and history, artists have used their interpretations and creativity in an attempt to capture human emotion, movement and nature, which we record through artistic works. Nature bestows a deep conscious and psychological influence on humans, prompting dance. The close human relationship with surrounding elements, guides and dictates emotions, instincts and movements. The relationship between the human body in nature and dance will always be an expression of freedom in its pure uncompromised form.
Artists have used their interpretations and creativity in an attempt to capture the human emotions and movement of dance with nature. I want to continue to evolve and progress the genre by further developing the bond, harmony, form and grace of the dance figures celebrating and melding with nature.
1. Judith Lynne Hanna, Dance, Sex and Gender Signs of Identity, Dominance, Defiance and Desire.
4. Alastair Wright, Matisse and the Subject of Modernism, 149.
5. J.P. Hodin, Edvard Munch, 191
Judith Lynne Hanna, Dance, Sex and Gender Signs of Identity, Dominance, Defiance and Desire.
Alastair Wright, Matisse and the Subject of Modernism
J.P. Hodin, Edvard Munch
Jay A. Clarke, Becoming Edvard Munch Influence, Anxiety, and Myth.