In the autumn of 2017 I began an MA in Dance Performance at the Irish World Academy, which is part of the University of Limerick. From the start I began to catalog ideas for my final project, but inspiration really hit while on a spring trip to Paris with my husband, Jeff. Due to the gracious generosity of my mother and grandmother we were staying in part of Paris’ 10th Arrondissement. Walking around the corner one day Jeff pointed and said “look- Invader!” He was pointing at a small mosaic, high up on a wall, of a video game character from the 1980’s arcade video game Space Invaders (released 1978). It was then that I learned that when he said “Invader” he was talking about the Parisian street arts who goes by the same name.
Invader’s work can be seen all over Paris and, now, in cities around the world. Like Banksy, he’s one of the early street artists who won street art credibility as an artform as opposed to vandalism. Seeing his work in person surprised me. While I’ve always been an admirer of murals, I had not really considered street art like that of Invader with any type of real interest previously, but seeing his work tucked into the cityscape gave me a new level of appreciation. For me, there is a sense of surprise and delight in walking down a street and seeing one of his works. Jeff and I watched the film Exit Through the Giftshop and I started learning more about these artists. I find it fascinating how the placement of their work in the cityscape changes it and, in some cases, gives it value it would not otherwise have if it was presented in a conventional setting. If my first encounter with one of Invader’s mosaics had been on the wall of some person’s house, I think I would find it to be of dubious value, but he has a skill for placement/framing of his work and it is in the context of the city that his work takes on a new life and becomes viable art.
I decided that for my final project I would take inspiration from these artists. Over the summer of 2018, as I travel, I will be engaging in street performances of contemporary ballet to investigate how performing on the street changes the nature of the work and may make ballet more available to some people. One of my great passions is making both the study and performance of ballet accessible to non-dancers and everyday people. For too long ballet has been associated with elitism and burdened with connotations of snobbery. While I do think it has been used in that fashion, these connotations are not inherent to the art form. Ballet is for everybody! I do think that not anyone can be a professional ballet dancer, but I know that everyone has the potential to enjoy ballet at some level as a student and as an audience-member if we, the performers and dance professionals, open it up to people. Bringing ballet to the streets and making available the beauty of this classical art form for people to engage with in a modern urban context is the type of work that is fundamental to who I am.
I did not get to dance in the streets of Paris due to an illness, but I did feel well enough to take some photos on our final day to launch this blog. Soon there will be some video footage of my street performance. I hope you will follow me on this dance journey.
See you in the streets!