On Exhibit: Materializing Dance

Columbia News
March 03, 2019

Jorge Otero-Pailos is one of three artists invited by New York City Center to create artworks that celebrate the cultural institution’s 75th anniversary.

For the occasion, the director of the architecture school’s preservation program has produced Répétiteur, a site-specific immersive installation that examines how dance masters pass their choreography from one generation to the next through trusted stagers— known as répétiteurs—who serve as living archives.

The work draws attention to the material evidence that the seemingly immaterial transfer of dance knowledge leaves behind: the dust and other residue left on the surfaces of the room by the movement of dancers. Using the same latex casting technique that he uses in his Ethics of Dust installations, Otero-Pailos has transferred the dancers’ residue onto illuminated peelings—golden latex sheets—displayed in custom light boxes that cast the rehearsal room in an amber, meditative light. The installation is accompanied by a sound collage of dancers learning Merce Cunningham choreography from the man himself and the Merce Cunningham Trust’s stager, Patricia Lent.

“When Merce died, he left behind an intangible treasure. His dances don’t exist unless they are performed, recreated, repeated by a new generation of dancers who never met the master,” said Otero-Pailos. “I’m interested in the value of the labor that goes into keeping dance in existence—the sweat and the pain creates dust that accumulates on the walls of the studio.”

The installation, an expression of the history, memory and impermanence of dance, will be on view at City Center’s Harkness Studio, March 2–10 and April 29–May 5, 2019.