Wall Drawings Inspire Dance

This spring, the Contemporary Dance Company (CoDa) is taking its inspiration from the drawings of Sol LeWitt—in terms of both their style and how they’re being created.

CoDaAs an artist, LeWitt developed detailed visual and written instructions for his work but left the actual interpretation and implementation to other artists. In that same way, art major English Cook ’13 and math major Niralee K. Shah ’12 have collaborated on a LeWitt-inspired scene for the CoDa dancers to interpret.

The dancers visited the Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing Retrospective, on view at MASS MoCA in North Adams, and the wall drawing on view at the Williams College Museum of Art. Cook explains, “Our research on LeWitt manifested in the choreography and performance in different ways. Niralee and I wanted to use LeWitt’s language and method but allow the dancers to interpret out instructions.”

According to CoDa’s artistic director Erica Dankmeyer ’91 and assistant director Janine Parker, LeWitt’s influence invites myriad approaches. Some are playful, while others reveal the challenge LeWitt’s method presents.

Dankmeyer adds the experience of LeWitt’s draftsmen—both his studio assistants and the Williams students over the years who have installed his work at the college museum and at MASS MoCA in North Adams—is similar to that of dancers.

We are often trying to translate into action the directions of others using the body, a forever imperfect, untamable instrument,” Dankmeyer says. “The result may or may not resemble the image in the eye of the creator, which LeWitt acknowledged as part of his method.”

The dance series is one part of a larger exhibition that opens at the Williams College Museum of Art next fall. “Sol LeWitt: The Well-Tempered Grid,” curated by Charles “Mark” Haxthausen, the Robert Sterling Clark Professor of Art History, will explore the grid as the underlying structural principle of LeWitt’s art as well as the artist’s passion for classical music.

“There is an extraordinary richness that this project has brought to the entire arts community,” says English major and CoDa dancer Jennifer Luo ’13. “We are all running on the same source of inspiration, and it is unbelievably exciting.”

Photography by Kate Kiernan.