City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Dance, National Gallery of Scotland, Review

By Vivien Devlin - Posted on 11 May 2010

High Steppers - Sickert
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National Galleries of Scotland and Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

What I love about elegant classical ballet and brash, bold, exciting contemporary dance is the vitality of movement matched by the beauty of the human form. Here, it’s the turn of artists and photographers to celebrate the world of dance from professional performance to social enjoyment. The contrasting works cover people, place, culture and colour from lively folk dancing at a Scottish Country wedding in 1819 to a couple of Drag Queens at a New York City night club in the 1960s.

The spirit of movement is superbly illustrated in Walter Sickert’s High Steppers, showing a chorus line of the Tiller Girls around the 1920s. You can almost hear the rhythm of the music as their knees and ankles swing up in perfect unison. Several years ago when this painting was shown as part of a Sickert exhibition, one of these same Tiller Girls was invited to pose with her picture. A flash of movement too in  Dancing Woman by Roger Hilton who depicts wild expression of freedom and carefree nudity, inspired by his wife Rose while on holiday in France.

"People call me the painter of Dancers, but I really wish to capture movement itself" Edgar Degas.

The series of delicate, impressionistic paintings of ballet dancers off and on stage by Degas are famous, beloved and much reproduced scenes. His study of classic ballet – the positions, the movement, the graceful figures - was repeated in endless sketches, paintings and wax models to find perfection.

In A Group of Dancers you can observe the faces, the feet, the gestures with subtle reflected light and colour.   For me, taking centre stage in this show, is Degas’ stunning bronze sculpture, Grand Arabesque, of a slender ballerina, arms outstretched leaning forward, her left leg in upward arabesque position. The image of pure dance in miniature.

National Gallery of Scotland until 6 June 2010