Dance Is For Everyone: David Michalek's Ginormous Public Video Art and Those Midsummer Night Swingers

I’m not a huge social dancer (I mainly take ballroom lessons in order to compete and perform), but I do like going to Midsummer Night Swing to watch the crowd having itself a blast. Midsummer Night Swing is held on the Plaza at Lincoln Center from mid June through July. Each night a different band performs on the bandstand, alternating between several types of danceable music: big band Swing, country western, Salsa (by far the most popular), Disco, and at one point this year there is even to be Samba! At the start of each evening, instructors from various ballroom dance studios in the city give a little lesson in the dance style of that night.

Above are the ever amusing Melanie Lapatin and Tony Meredith, owners of my old studio and 1995 U.S. National Latin Champions, on July 4th, giving the salsa lecture.

Which was followed by this very crowd-wowing demo by a young couple associated with Dance Times Square, Sascha and Oksana.

Always fun to see how people take to the action: some bemusedly learning to dance for the very first time, and others, like this guy above, showing his homeland pride and helping the band out a bit from the sidelines with his maracas.

It was raining off and on on the 4th, so the crowd was unusually small, but it’s normally so packed out there you can hardly move. I just love how they have this immensely popular social dance event located smack in the center of THE institutions of “high art” dance: The State Theater, to the left in the top pic, houses the New York City Ballet, and the Metropolitan Opera House, in the back, the American Ballet Theater, which just ended its Spring Season. For the first couple weeks of Midsummer Night Swing, ABT performances were still happening, though, and I often wondered if any of the social dancers, for example, this cheery Puerto Rican group, noticed any of the several large posters in front of the Met showing scenes from the ballet, and were at all inspired to try a ballet performance. Something tells me likely not.

But tonight, that may well change. It’s the official opening of photographer / filmmaker David Michalek‘s new public art dance exhibit, “Slow Dancing,” also at Lincoln Center Plaza.

Michalek filmed twelve dancers from various styles (including several from ballet), doing a very brief five-second movement, which he then slowed way the heck down, so that each segment plays on film for a whopping 10 minutes. Three giant screens are to be erected on the front of the State Theater, one dancer on each. I’d gone to see him speak about the work at the Guggenheim a few months ago, and blogged about its potential iconic effect on the dancers shown, here.

This public art project is part of the Lincoln Center Festival and will continue through the end of July, when it will travel to other outdoor venues throughout the country.

I love that this project is available for all (there’s no fee to access the Plaza), and I’m really excited to see this unique intersection of ballet and social dance, or, I guess “high” and “pop” art, if you believe in dichotomies. From the sound of it, the screens will be so large that I feel people will be compelled to look. Hopefully, of course, they will be captivated by the movement as well. We shall see!

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