MOMA announced a new dance program for the fall, Some sweet day, to be curated by Ralph Lemon, who over the last decade has become a kind of Yoda in the field. It will team up Jérôme Bel & Steve Paxton, Dean Moss & Faustin Linyekula, and Deborah Hay & Sarah Michelson. Per the press release, the pairs will theoretically be "engaged in an aesthetic, generational, and historical dialogue about each other's work and dance in particular."
Paxton/Bel will present older pieces (including, respectively, the popular Satisfying Lover and The Show Must Go On), while the latter two pairings will create new work for the atrium. The Linyekula/Moss collaboration also includes a "two-day interstitial performance by American artist Kevin Beasley." Wow.
This comes hot on the heels of the Whitney Biennial's ramped up dance program, which coincidentally featured Michelson as well. (Michael Clark's performances begin tonight and run through April 8. I blogged about this newfound emphasis on serious dance at the Whitney recently.) It also evokes Danspace Project's platform series, wisely rekindled in recent years; 2012's—curated by Ishmael Houston Jones—is just coming to a close, fittingly with an all-day event on Mar 31 put together by... Ralph Lemon.
The Whitney turned over its fourth floor, normally galleries, to dance/theater/music residencies and performances. MOMA's program differs from the Whitney's; although the performances will occupy the ominous/awesome atrium, they won't occupy gallery space normally dedicated to exhibiting a quantity of art, although it is often given over to one large-scale installation.
MOMA's best-known featured performance in recent memory has to be Marina Abramovic's in The Artist is Present, when visitors waited hours to sit across from her and be stared at. It was part of her much-hyped retrospective, which felt alternately elegiac and glib, with its live recreations of her historical performances that to me, begged to be left as one-time events, marking a moment in time and space. On the outset, Some sweet day avoids the aura of provocation and sensationalism that Abramovic's events had.
Of course both museums have had performance programs in the past, it's just that now they seem to be more prominent. It may take real estate and energy away from visual art, but it's good for dance, and it gives the museums some of the (literally) poor dance world's priceless cachet. And in fact, choreography that tilts toward the conceptual might fit better in a museum context than a theater.
Can't buy love, but at least you can borrow it.