Samples Architecture An Exhibition of Dance and Architecture

An Exhibition of Dance and Architecture

604 words 3 page(s)

Designed by a famous U.S. architect John Russell Pope, the Branch Museum of Architecture and Design in Richmond, VA, hosted a beautiful exhibit “Ballet Pas de Deux: An Exhibition of Dance and Architecture.” The aim of this exhibition was to show that dance and architecture are related because they are creative and focus on space. The series of thirty photographs combined with the video-and-sound installation leave the impression that architectural design with its own means portrays people’s lives and directs how people act across different venues.

In the photographs, the venues of the Branch home emerge as inhabited spaces, but in reality they are not. Still, seeing people moving (dancing) in the rooms and galleries of this building in Tudor style helps see that all these spaces are lived and have their own meanings. For example, arched doors which have heavy decorations remind people of the power that everyone wants to achieve in life. When one sees these doors, as well as the sophisticated stone work, over-scaled chimneys, one remembers that life is full of grandeur and we should strive to get as high in the society as we can. Yet, when we see the two gently moving dancers in all these sumptuous venues, we start seeing more. The sophisticated architecture may be not only about power of the home owners. It may also be about the permanence of the home as a family nest. It may be about the wish to impart stability into something which is doomed to ruin, in this century or another.

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Tudor style forces everyone to see the dancers from the perspective of the distant past. King Henry VIII and his poor wives cast a shadow on the interior. Love, expressed by the ballet dancers Valerie Tellmann-Henning and Kirk Henning, in some cases looks doomed. The thick walls, squatty doorways, and the overhanging second floor? The house seems to imprison the couple and leave them only with a small hope of escaping. Most architectural design of both interior and exterior fills the dance movement with the sense of some strict hierarchy. As we see the man and woman who move along the old brick and stone walls and windows with many panes that are clustered together we think of an idyll. But the architecture is very demanding and it looks patriarchal. It seems to direct the young man and woman towards the values that it embodies: the man as the head of the family, a strong family, hard work and persistence in life business. Only the multi-light windows, as they serve the background to the dancing duet, promise peace and mutual understanding to the inhabitants.

The architectural design conveys more grandeur than comfort. It brings about associations with the past full of different atrocities and brings about the spirits of the house’s original owners. The ballet dancers and their charm make up a great contrast between how modern people see themselves in the buildings and how the buildings want them to move or act. The Branch Museum building venues portrays people’s lives as down-to-earth, subject to hierarchy, classy, and focused on power and stability. It enforces the old values through its design. The dance makes the building more humane but it cannot animate it so that we think of it as a suitable living space.

Overall, in this paper, I have traced how architecture through its design directs the movement and actions of people in different venues and directs the lives of those who inhabit the building. The Branch Museum embodies the old values of its era and it has managed to enforce them on the dancing couple.

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