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A Timeline of Dance Highlights at The Met

MetLiveArts just announced its first choreographer as the 2017–18 Artist in Residence, Andrea Miller and Gallim Dance. In celebration of this momentous occasion, we are sharing a timeline of dance performance to highlight the rich history of dance at the Museum. This timeline reveals The Met's deep dedication to presenting innovative artists, as well as the range of dance forms that have been staged in the galleries and the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium.

January 22, 1970: Twyla Tharp and Dancers

Two photos of Twyla Tharp and Dancers performing at The Met in 1970; on the left, the dancers perform on the grand staircase, on the right, dancers perform in a gallery

Photos © James Klosty

Twyla Tharp and Dancers performed a seminal site-specific piece on the steps of the Great Hall in 1970, as one in a series of Dancing in the Streets performances choreographed for public spaces as a way to connect art and everyday life. This performance also included several other works from Tharp's repertory, which, at The Met, included Tank Dive (1965), Disperse (1967), Group Activities (1969), Generation (1968), After "Suite" (1969), and Medley (1969). Cameras recorded the dancers and a video feed allowed audiences to view performances occurring in multiple spaces.

September 18, 1978: Martha Graham Dance Company

In 1978, at the encouragement of Lila Acheson Wallace, Martha Graham created a site-specific work entitled Frescoes, which featured costumes by noted fashion designer Halston. Frescoes was created for and danced at the opening celebration of the Temple of Dendur in the then-new Sackler Wing.

October 15, 1998: David Parsons with Phil Woods

February 11, 1999: Bill T. Jones

March 18, 1999: Trisha Brown

During the 1998–99 season, a stand-out series called Music and the Art of Choreography featured top choreographers David Parsons, Bill T. Jones, and Trisha Brown in three separate events in which they discussed the significant connection between music and choreography. These demonstrations ranged from the more general impact of music on choreographic gestures (such as those prevalent in the work of Bill T. Jones) to very specific dance pieces: Trisha Brown revealed sequences of her Canto/Pianto (1997) and L'Orfeo (1998), which was set to Monteverdi's operatic score.

October 23, 2008: Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company

The Met has hosted leading companies and artists representing a range of dance styles and traditions, including performances by the Bayanihan Philippine National Dance Company, the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble, the Djoliba Ensemble of Mali, the renowned Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company, and numerous others.

June 6 and 13, 2011: Shen Wei Dance Arts

Photo by Andrew Bisdale

Shen Wei created Still Moving, a site-specific dance in 2011 inspired by the sculptures in The American Wing's Charles Engelhard Court. The new work, which also featured projections, was set to electronic music by composer Daniel Burke of Illusion of Safety and featured costumes designed by Austin Scarlett.

October 19, 2013: Streb Extreme Action and Kyle Abraham

September 26, 2015: Amar Ramasar

Clockwise from top: Elizabeth Streb; Amar Ramasar; Kyle Abraham. All photos by Stephanie Berger

The first TEDxMet event in 2013 was inspired by the theme of "Icons," and the choreographer Elizabeth Streb, known for her intensely physical performance works, brought TIP to the stage, featuring an enormous half wheel that her dancers manipulated throughout the piece. Kyle Abraham performed his powerful work Pavement, an emotional and physically expressive look at cultural conflicts. For the Museum's 2015 TEDxMet event, which explored the idea of the "In-Between," New York City Ballet's Amar Ramasar choreographed an expressive new work specifically for the occasion.

February 20, 2014: Dance Heginbotham

Choreographer John Heginbotham collaborated with 2013–14 Artist in Residence Alarm Will Sound on a site-specific performance for The Charles Engelhard Court for an evening of dance and music by composers Tyondai Braxton, Aphex Twin, Edgard Varèse, and Raymond Scott. The program included the world premiere of Fly By Wire set to Braxton's score.

January 10, 2015: Nrityagram Dance Ensemble

Photo by Nan Melville

A stunning, dreamy, and wholly captivating evening, called "one of the most extraordinary dance events of the year" by the New York Times, was performed by Surupa Sen and Bijayini Satpathy, masters of Odissi. Performed in front of the Temple of Dendur in The Sackler Wing, the dancers were accompanied by their music ensemble and performed three duets: Shyamala Vandana, Dhira Samiré (from Songs of Love and Longing), and Vibhakta (from Samyoga).

January 13, 2015: Trisha Brown Dance Company

Photo courtesy of MetLiveArts

On a Tuesday morning at 11:30 am, the Trisha Brown Dance Company performed a pop-up performance in The Charles Engelhard Court, dancing in works that spanned Brown's iconic repertory: Figure 8 (1974), Accumulation (1971), and excerpts from M.O. (1995), Foray Forêt (1990), and PRESENT TENSE (2003).

March 24, 2015: The Francesca Harper Project

Collaborating with Attacca Quartet, the MetLiveArts 2014–15 Quartet in Residence, Francesca Harper choreographed new movement to John Adams's music in a program called John Adams: "Confirmed" Dances. Dancers from Howard University, as well as Harper herself, performed selections from John's Book of Alleged Dances (1994), and special guest artists from the Dance Theatre of Harlem concluded the evening with String Quartet (2008).

June 14, 2015: Dušan Týnek Dance Theatre

Photo by Filip Wolak

For the 2015 Museum Mile Festival, Dušan Týnek Dance Theatre gave pop-up performances on The Met's David H. Koch Plaza as well as in the Great Hall, the Medieval Sculpture Hall, the Carroll and Milton Petrie European Sculpture Court Gallery, and the Mary and Michael Jaharis Gallery.

June 26, 2015: Dai Jian

Photo courtesy of MetLiveArts

An ambitious new work choreographed by Dai Jian, SILENT dialogue moved through several galleries and featured a thoughtful interplay between the collection, space, and movement. As each of the Museum's galleries had its own energy and movement vocabulary, Jian and his dancers performed in nine galleries representing five different curatorial departments. SILENT dialogue was performed twice throughout the evening and was offered for free with Museum admission, so audiences varied between those expecting a performance and those who were completely surprised by the events.

September 11, 2015: New York City Ballet in Christopher Wheeldon's Liturgy

Photo courtesy of MetLiveArts

In an epic celebration of Arvo Pärt's 80th birthday at the Temple of Dendur in The Sackler Wing, conductor Joel Sachs led the New Juilliard Ensemble in a concert of Pärt's music ranging from Für Alina (1976) to My Heart's in the Highlands (2000/2013). Ending the program on a divine note, New York City Ballet's Amar Ramasar and Rebecca Krohn performed Christopher Wheeldon's Liturgy (2003).

March 18, 2016: David Dorfman Dance

Photo by Stephanie Berger

When The Met Breuer opened in March of 2016, choreographer David Dorfman found inspiration in the building's Sunken Garden and Lobby, and created a site-specific performance that seemed to spontaneously erupt in the spaces five times throughout the day. The piece featured an original score by Ken Thomson that was performed live by musicians from Asphalt Orchestra and Dither.

March 18, 2016: MetFriday: Arthur Mitchell

As part of the opening celebration for The Met Breuer, nine-minute chats (representing roughly the length of time it takes to walk between The Met Fifth Avenue and The Met Breuer) were given throughout the galleries of The Met Fifth Avenue by some of the most creative voices from across New York City, in response to the exhibition Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible. Arthur Mitchell, co-founder and artistic director emeritus of Dance Theatre of Harlem, spoke in the Medieval Sculpture Hall about his reflections on the theme, and Paunika Jones, also of Dance Theatre of Harlem, illuminated the concepts discussed through a dance performance.

September 28, 2016: Gallim Dance

In the fall of 2016, MetLiveArts presented Andrea Miller's work-in-progress Stone Skipping, a site-specific work for the Temple of Dendur. The work will be presented in its developed form in the fall of 2017 as part of Miller's yearlong residency.

November 12, 2016: Nederlands Dans Theater 1

Photo by Stephanie Berger

Nederlands Dans Theater 1 members performed Sol León and Paul Lightfoot's four-minute work Shutters Shut on the fifth floor of The Met Breuer, in conjunction with the exhibition Humor and Fantasy—The Berggruen Paul Klee Collection. The work is set to Gertrude Stein's reading of her 1923 poem "If I told him: A completed portrait of Picasso."

January 19, 2017: Monica Bill Barnes & Company

Two women stretch in The Met's European sculpture court while bathed in early morning light

Photo by Paula Lobo

The Museum Workout—part dance performance, part tour, and part workout—brings an intimate group of participants through 36 of the Museum's galleries along a route curated and narrated by the artist Maira Kalman and led by Monica Bill Barnes & Co. The critically acclaimed two-mile piece defies easy definition and was extended twice due to its popularity. Since its world premiere, it has become one of the city's most inspiring and original ways to experience a museum.

The above list of highlighted performances is meant to offer a sampling of dance here at the Museum and is not necessarily comprehensive. Have a favorite performance that wasn't mentioned here? Let us know in the comments below!

Research for this article provided by MetLiveArts Program Associate Elysia Dawn.


To purchase tickets to any upcoming MetLiveArts event, visit www.metmuseum.org/tickets; call 212-570-3949; or stop by the Great Hall Box Office, open Monday–Saturday, 11 am–3:30 pm.

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