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David and Art - Painting While Dancing

I didn’t realize that painting and dance could produce a single work until I took a walk in the park.

I heard the music first. It was a sort of semi-classical/semi-jazz violin piece if you can imagine such a thing. And it was a recording; it wasn’t live. But the music wasn’t even the draw of what was going on right here in this little part of Washington Square in Greenwich Village.

I was walking through the Square on a chilly evening a couple of weeks ago. As always, it was full of people sitting and talking, walking around, performing, or just taking in the scene. The music I’d heard was accompanying a dancer. She was in black tights and a grey top with long straight black hair. Her dance moves were an improvisational combination of styles. She’d spread out a piece of canvas about ten-by-ten feet and secured it in place on the concrete with gaffer tape and was using that for her dance floor. Her feet and hands were black with paint, and as she moved, her feet recorded her movements on the canvas. Wherever she reached down and touched, she likewise left a record of her hand. It was a mesmerizing performance because of her skill, and what’s more, the whole of her performance was being translated into a painting.

What she was producing probably wouldn’t be regarded as a “real painting” by some people. And it obviously wasn’t a painting that portrayed a landscape or a portrait or any kind of recognizable image. While there were a couple of places on the canvas that clearly was a hand or a foot, most places came across as abstract slashes or smears of paint. If you were looking for something that conveyed an image you’d be out of luck.

But what was being produced here before the eyes of those watching her dance was a painting to be sure. The subject of the painting was the dance itself. The painting was a record of her moves as they happened, in that particular way, only once. In that way the painting was doubly unique. I was very impressed with the concept. I wish I would’ve hung around and told her.

Her name, I learned later, is Kanami Kusajima and she was using not paint but a traditional medium called Sumi ink. She’s there regularly. It reminded me of Jackson Pollock or Helen Frankenthaler but taken up a notch by adding a completely separate art form. In letting their paintings dictate how they look, Pollock and Frankenthaler produced truly nonrepresentational works. Anyone who watches Kusajima work, knows immediately that her paintings are of something. And what I watched her produce was a work of art that fused two forms that I didn’t realize could be turned into one.