Baroque satire? Historical dances in an antique setting at Tate Britain

In the Duveen galleries, which form the central nave of Tate Britain, three dancers dressed in black leggings, red jerseys and white beads perform Baroque style dances along white-tape markings lining the marble floors.

The dancers are athletic, attractive and perform most of their balletic movements in a nonchalant silence.

On two ends of a temporary enclosure are images of neoclassical architecture which approximately resemble the facades of Tate Britain.


Pablo Bronstein studied at Slade School of Fine Art and Goldsmiths College, London and currently lives and works in London and Deal, Kent. Photo:

Tourists, art lovers and school children gaze on in confused amazement at the dancers and their unusually refined choreography which blends the creative experimentation of modern dance with a restrained, antique aesthetic.

The choreographer is the Argentine born, London-based artist Pablo Bronstein, who is known for his love of neoclassical architecture and the Baroque, and for his taste for irony and the satiric.

Watching the beautiful, careful and graceful moves performed with an almost indifferent arrogance by the dancers, you wonder if Bronstein is mocking the Tate-lover, the modern London art connoisseur, as much as he is satirising the pretensions of neoclassicism.

In any case, the dance, like the Tate building itself, creates an oasis of civilised calm.

It captures the genteel physicality of the gallery’s Victorian presence, and the transmuted sexuality of the choreography is a refreshing and expressive contrast to the sex-sells consumerism of modern life.

The white tape markings on the corridor look like the shapes of a mid-twentieth century painting, and they slightly jar with the brass patterns on the original flooring.

A shameless, controlled extravagance in the Baroque dances self-consciously lack urban gestures or any acknowledgement of street culture.

Baroque itself is a self-aware attempt to retain the pristine values of the Renaissance. With even more desperate clinging do you find this attempt in the nineteenth century neoclassical styles of buildings like the Tate.

Besides this irony and pronounced camp, the civilising force of classical values manifests itself honestly. The choreography works.

You feel gently transported to a simpler, spiritual place, one you know doesn’t exist but which you are happy to hide in for as long as possible.

Historical Dances In An Antique Setting successfully presents the measured aspirations of classical heritage, in such a way that is believable and which doesn’t feel out of touch.

Both the bourgeois Victorian pomposity of the Tate and it’s genuine worth as a place of contemplative sanctuary, are brought together in these hypnotising and enticing movements.

A series of dances designed and choreographed by Pablo Bronstein will be showing at Tate Britain until October 2016


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s