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image:Tour the Collection With guest curator Scott McKowen

Tour the Collection
With guest curator Scott McKowen

Dance Posters

Infused with vibrant colour and motion captured in time, the dance posters in the NAC Poster Collection embody some of the most dynamic and elegant designs.
image:Cortex image:What Is Love? image:encyclop image:DUTCH DANCE FOCUS image:Les Ballets Jazz De Montréal image:Dance Showcase Series 84-85/National Arts Centre FLYING FEET image:Les Males Heures image:93-94 dance National Arts Centre image:93-94 dance National Arts Centre image:93-94 dance National Arts Centre image:93-94 dance National Arts Centre

How does a graphic designer capture movement? Motion can be frozen in time when captured by a camera. Photography is an obvious medium for publicists to use when promoting a star dancer or a specific work. Since the camera reduces three dimensions to two, photographs perfectly lend themselves to graphic design.

A still photograph can’t show change in movement, so it can’t really show dancing, but the poster for Dominique Porte’s Cortex (2000) caught my eye from the way the designer layered multiple exposures. While it’s a little confusing to make out what’s going on, this treatment creates a sense of dance movement on the page.

Gallagher/Doowah Design created a poster for Contemporary Dancers (Winnipeg) and Artistic Director Charles Moulton’s What is Love? (1991) and addressed the movement-challenge playfully by superimposing bright pink balls orbiting around type set on a curve over a black and white photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

Dominique Mousseau contrasts stillness and movement through her sophisticated placement of image and type on a poster for Encyclopœdia - Document 1 (2000) by Compagnie de Brune. A photo of a dancer is thrown slightly out of focus and then cropped unexpectedly. Words are divided and stacked, without diminishing legibility. Horizontal, vertical and one subtle diagonal element balance the composition. Three mysterious small forms, like abstract pairs of legs, suggest sequential steps moving down the page in a vertical row. It’s a masterful design.

A photo by Deen van Meer of a dancer in toe shoes provides the background for orangetango’s intricately layered poster for the NAC’s 2004/05 Dutch Dance Focus. Transparent bands of red and blue form a bold Dutch flag occupying the top half of the poster. Extensive text about the events included in the festival fills more than half of the remaining area. The photo is visible through all these layers – the outstretched arms and legs lock together the entire composition – and the synthesis of words and images crackles with energy.

On a 1997 poster for Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal intense visual electricity is generated by the bold layering of type and well-chosen images. The designer spliced together two contrasting photographs (one of them upside down) to create an abstract silhouette that seems all about pure movement.

Illustration can be used just as effectively as photography for dance poster images. The poster for a 1984/85 Dance Showcase series entitled Flying Feet/Pas de Dieu features a pair of Mercury-like wings in a simple, graceful line drawing, glowing with colour against a black background.

A poster for Paul-André Fortier’s Les Males Heures (1989) is built around an Yvan Dagenais image. The heavy, awkward figure has the naiveté of a child’s drawing. It’s an unlikely image for a dance poster, but it manages to be ominous and comical at the same time. It is a perfect image for the production’s title, which is a play on the French word malheur, meaning “misfortune.”

A series of four posters by Jack Udashkin for the 1993/94 NAC Dance programming season confounds all expectations about dance imagery by featuring photographs of an elephant, a cow, a flock of chickens and a dead fish. The images are beautifully reproduced in subtle duotone colours. There’s no text or type other than a minimal NAC corporate identification. As whimsical as these posters might seem, they send a powerful message: come to the NAC for dance and we will challenge your perceptions about the art form. Few cultural organizations would have the confidence to make such a statement, or pull it off with such panache.