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"Everybody Dance Now"

by Lori Ortiz
February 3, 2009
2wice Arts Foundation
145 Central Park West
New York, NY 10023
Photography by Martin Parr
Martin Parr's photos of good times in the world's party towns are the subject of the new "2wice" issue "Everybody Dance Now." This twice-yearly publication is a cross between a glossy magazine and a coffee table book. It is a newer project from Patsy Tarr and Abbott Miller of the respected and defunct Dance Ink. "2wice" straddles the subjects of style, graphic design, and dance. In a troubled economy, Parr's vivid, pleasurable compositions of fragile yet persistent humanity look stylish and substantial.

Andy Grundberg, in his essay "Martin Parr's Danceteria," refers to a continuum from low to high and to the influence of social dance on concert forms. Does the continuum structure still apply? Even hip-hop-style social dancing has played on the imagination of ballet choreographers, for example in the new movie "Center Stage: Turn It Up," or Victor Quijada on Peter Boal and his company of City Ballet dancers. A Complexions dancer can spin on a posterior. And, of course, concert dancers are among those who let loose on club dance floors after work.

Grundberg rightly points out that Parr captures the "good-naturedness of humanity." Good nature may be today's cutting edge. Notwithstanding boundaries between genres, consider the work of Miguel Gutierrez and Pipilotti Rist. If we agree there's generally good nature in social dancing, then there's been cross-fertilization between high and low. The key here is the word "Everybody."

Performance and social ritual meet in a photo of contestants at the World Ballroom Competition in Blackpool, England. Couples waltz or prepare to perform. Parr and designer Abbott Miller have us pan the club interior, and the pages, clockwise. The view of Blackpool is time-based. Windows reveal sideline preparations. Porcelain-faced contestants with arms akimbo await a decision. Oblivious, in a facing window, dancers swirl on the floor.

Like the Blackpool photos, a spread from Beijing, China features a crisply austere, still portrait— here, the back of a suited man. He is watching the blur of high-key colors at a car show. Pom and go-go dancers extend the concept of fast motion that's suggested in a large photo of moving cars. Since the cars are actually on a flatbed, concepts of movement and stillness are complicated, ambiguous, and fascinating.

In the vivid photos, the format— spreads of three images and one bolded title— brings out intense color workings. The images exist, if in no other way, simply as sophisticated color studies. The eye flits from orange scarf to sweater, red blouse to ketchup bottle. But also, close-ups infer narrative or call attention to form. A man stares at his partner's nicotine (?) arm patch. Another man's finger presses his partner's diamond ring. A hand accentuates the small above an ample bottom.

Background becomes foreground in shots of dancers in Scotland. (By the way, these are filmic and not digital images.) A baldheaded man with a card-sized camera and a Woolworths bag are front and center, sharp and sunlit. Kilted performers on a distant, out-of-focus platform stand with their backs to us. Parr is questioning the value of the various elements in the picture and suggesting a different hieratic structure.

People everywhere claim social dance as a national pastime. Briton Parr may be no exception but extends that in photos from Banjul to Bangkok. One taken in The Gambia in 1991 recalls colonialism and raises curiosity about that country's history and politics. But in what invariably portrays national character, the next page is a Cambridge picnic scene with eye-popping drinks and dress. A 2007 Munich, Germany group in lederhosen and traditional dresses looks storybook against stenciled wall décor. A New York dance studio looks uniquely dismal, un-Disneyfied. Parr paints Sao Paolo, Brazil in stereotypical travel poster color. Parr, the observer, has managed an insider's guide with his sidelines point-of-view. Subjects appear unaware or unconcerned with his presence.

Insiders here does not mean exclusive. In the "Everybody Dance Now," album, "2wice" presents beauty in framed slices of life. Instead of cropping out cell phones, plastic shopping bags, and cameras, these items serve formal, allegorical, compositions. Everyone dances, and everyone photographs.

Scroll down for a look inside.

Photo © & courtesy of Martin Parr


Photo © & courtesy of Martin Parr


Photo © & courtesy of Martin Parr


Cover 2wice Design Abbott Miller

Cover 2wice
Design Abbott Miller

Photo © & courtesy of Martin Parr

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