Review: Pablo Bronstein - Historical Dances in an Antique Setting - Tate Britain

Performance: 26 April - 9 October 2016
Reviewed by Josephine Leask - Friday 29 April 2016

Pablo Bronstein’s Sotheby’s commission, installed in Tate Britain’s Duveen Sculpture Galleries looks like an elaborate set for a baroque ballet. Historical Dances In An Antique Setting pays homage to classical architecture and transforms the spacious neoclassical Duveen galleries into a promenading stage with floor markings, set, dancers, lighting and music.

At either end of the high ceilinged galleries are large- scale, visually manipulated images of the exterior of Tate Britain. There’s something fake and tasteless about the perfection of these images, they are a glossy imitation of the original, an air-brushed re-interpretation of the past but they attract our attention to features of the Tate’s façade that we may not usually notice.

What’s effective about the dance element in Bronstein’s installation is that live bodies not only bring the images to life and but also emphasise the social codes and style of his favoured Baroque period. The dancers, a group of professionals borrowed from a variety of contemporary companies, inhabit the installation in groups of three. Their costume is simple but striking: red shirts and black leggings adorned with oversize white necklaces and earrings, again mirroring the synthetic look of Bronstein’s images. Coached by a Baroque specialist, their movement is effete, refined and balletic. Wrists flick in and out, the carriage of the arms is high and aristocratic, the footwork restrained and precise, all executed from positions of turn-out. They have a subtly haughty and disdainful air about them, in keeping with court etiquette and the upper classes who would have participated in baroque dance.

As the dancers follow the white lines which mark out the extensive performance space through the Duveen galleries, sometimes dancing in solo, other times in unison, they embody the symbolic power and control of classical architecture, its symmetry and grandeur while also emphasising the self-conscious constructedness of this re-creation of history. It’s important to view them as an extension of the installation rather than as a separate performance and Bronstein seems to achieve this integration. It will be interesting to see how the live element changes (or not) over the next six months, as the dancers will be appearing daily for the duration of the commission.

Free Admission. Open daily 10am – 6pm, with live performances from 11am – 5pm

Photos: Bettina Strenske. Dancers: Rosalie Wahlfrid, Margarita Zafrilla Olayo, Emilia Gasiorek and Luke Crook
26 April – 9 October 2016

Leave a comment

You must be signed in to post comments.

Sign in now

What’s On