"Shall We Dance: A Century of African-Americans in Dance" on view at Fairfield University's Walsh Gallery
"Shall We Dance: A Century of African-Americans in Dance," an exhibit which presents the works of Morgan Monceaux from the "Black Dance Series, 1993," and focuses on the contributions of African-American dance from its roots in Africa to the contemporary stage, will be on view in Fairfield University's Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts from Jan. 28 to March 3, 2002. The exhibit opens with a reception on Thursday, Jan. 28, from 6 to 8 p.m., and includes three films on contemporary African-American dance that are available for daily viewing.
The display traces African-American dance and dancers from the plantation, minstrelsy and music halls, to the concert stages of today. Memorable portraits are given of Master Juba, Bill Robinson, Pearl Primus, Alvin Ailey and many others.
The art of Morgan Monceaux adds depth to the recent interest in the influence of African-Americans on American music and dance. In 1993 Monceaux constructed a series of 51 mixed-media works: paintings, drawings, collages and assemblages, each measuring 40 x 60 inches. The series captures the evolution of African-American dancers in America beginning in 1948 and seeks to use art to dispel the myth that only a handful of blacks danced professionally prior to the Civil Rights Era.
Monceaux's pastel drawings are created first, followed by additions of paint, commercial markers, collage, fabric, plastic, etc. Over the years friends have given the artist objects to incorporate in his work. A common practice is to scatter those objects on tables and the floor as he works. One of his creations portrays Pearl Primus in full leap, with African head wrap, adorned with cowry shells, Popsicle sticks, brocade, glitter and jewelry. The text, scribbled in black magic markers, generally comes last.
"Shall we Dance" is not only intended for lovers of dance but for all those interested in the cultural contributions of African-Americans to America. The main thrust of the exhibit focuses on concert dancers from 1930 to today, for it is in this area that the African-American dancer has met with the greatest prejudice and resistance, but it is also where these dancers have become artists of the first magnitude.
The complete series is on display in the Walsh Gallery at Fairfield University, Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Three films will be available for daily viewing in the gallery: "The Choreography of Alvin Ailey;" "the Choreography of Garth Fagan;" and "A Great Day for Harlem," a jazz film. Admission is free. For more information call (203) 254-4000, ext. 2969.
Posted on December 20, 2001
Vol. 34, No. 112