Julia Brown/ Lindsay Benedict Finnish Dance Instruction (homophonokinetic transcriptions), 2013 Color video, sound, 0:50 seconds. (still) Lent by the artists

BronxArtSpace opens first in-person exhibit during pandemic

The BronxArtSpace reopened its gallery on August 29 for its first in-person exhibit since March with “How To Dance,” a collection of videos focusing on the sometimes awkward joy of learning new moves.

The five videos were created separately by unconnected artists, but the exhibit’s curator, Phyllis Rosenzweig, 76, of Washington, D.C. saw their potential as a collection and reached out to the artists and other galleries to borrow the videos for the show.

Although the videos were not originally created as a group, Rosenzweig said, “If you put them together, they say something about the feeling people—not professionals—get dancing.”

Since closing, the BronxArtSpace has produced two online-only shows.

“It felt like we had lost our mission a little bit,” said BronxArtSpace director Sabine Schumacher.

“The museum’s goal is to offer a safe space in Mott Haven to explore art, literature and music, and to gather a community,” said Schumacher. After visiting other small galleries and seeing what was possible, Schumacher was determined to reopen.

Though it wasn’t planned, Rosenzweig said it was fitting that the exhibit is on view as museums and galleries are opening around the city. 

“Moving and dancing are celebratory,” she said. 

In “Finnish Dance Instruction,” the artists Lindsay Benedict and Julia Brown attempted to learn a dance from instructions given in Finnish, which neither speaks. It’s unclear the type of dance they were attempting; The pair was only partially in sync and their irregular, unsure steps further muddled the dance. Still Benedict and Brown smiled, playfully popping their hips and swinging their arms as the video progresses.

In her video, Klara Liden made an impressive effort to keep up with professional ballet dancers at a practice class. While the ballerinas smoothly swept their legs along the stage floor and dipped into deep squats in tandem, Liden’s body did not cooperate. Her legs could not get quite as straight, and she could not dip quite as low.

Glendalys Medina’s videos showed them learning to breakdance. The first zeroes in on their feet a warmup as they shakily lift and lower their heels during. The second is a loop of Medina’s repetitious practice of a move called the “babyfreeze.”

“There’s a joy in learning to do something. It’s a kind of freedom,” said Rosenzweig.

“Niagara” by Mark Bradford is a bit different. In the video, a young Black man, filmed from behind, struts down a city street only breaking his stride for a small leap into the air. His exaggerated steps and swinging arms reminded Rosenzweig of Benedict and Brown’s in Finnish Dance Instruction, and she was intrigued by the spontaneity of his jump.

“How to Dance” is on view through Oct. 16, 2020 on Thursdays and Fridays 2 – 6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 12 – 5 p.m. Appointments are encouraged (though not required), as a maximum of five visitors will be allowed in the gallery at any time.

The BronxArtSpace is located at 305 East 140th St. #1A, Bronx, NY 10454. Admission is free. Masks are required to enter. For more information call 718-401-8144 or visit www.bronxartspace.com.