Donald Byrd on Trapsprung

Donald Byrd on Trapsprung

Donald Byrd on Trapsprung

Listen to local choreographer Donald Byrd discuss how Lynette Yiadom-Boakye's Trapsprung connects to themes of the Figuring History exhibition.

Donald Byrd on Trapsprung

Donald Byrd on Trapsprung

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Transcript

My name is Donald Byrd and I'm the Executive Artistic Director at Spectrum Dance Theater.

It's a ballerina, but she's not in performance clothes. She's in practice clothes, and then her back is to us, we feel that she's not performing for us. And usually when we think of performers, we think that they're going to perform for us. And then also that she's black, and so this insertion of a black figure into what we normally think of as, you know, a white art form, a European art form. And also the fact that her body, not only is it black but it's muscular, if you look at her back it's very muscular, which is not what we think of for a ballerina is skinny and kind of waiflike and that way. The other thing that I see in the painting is that there's effort, and the whole idea of a ballet is that it is, it should look easy and effortless. And so her body has effort in it. And so that says something. And there's an Africaness aesthetic thing which is about you hit things and it's muscular. And so there's that in the Africaness aesthetic, it's actually, I think, embodied or embedded, in this image.

It's really confronting a lot of things about our notions about who I think who belongs, and who can, who has ownership, who can participate. And also the indistinct background in terms of determining location suggests to me perhaps that the only place that a black ballerina can exist is in some imagined place.

I think the meaning of this painting in the SAM collection is that it's an acknowledgement that artists of color have a place, and that by bringing these objects into this institution, the institution is acknowledging that it does have a place. And this work debunked the notion that black artists or artists of color don't have the skills. This work is very skillful, and the work that I've seen in the museum in the collection, they demonstrate a high level of skill, and this is the perfect example of conceptually and how thoughtful the work is by these artists.

Is something else going on here and what is that something else? What do you see as being the, something else that's going on here? And maybe does it confront your notion of what a, what a dancer is, what a ballerina is? Her blackness, does that change how you look at the painting?

LOW/NO VISION TRANSCRIPT

You are listening to a visual description of the artwork intended for someone with low to no vision. An interpretive analysis will immediately follow. For interpretive analysis of the object, enter the three-digit number on the label followed by the pound key.

Trapsprung, by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. Created in 2013. Oil on canvas. About 6 ½ feet tall by 5 feet and 10 inches wide.

This is a nearly life-sized painting of a ballerina dancer seen from behind. The dancer's full body is in the center and fills the majority of the canvas, which is otherwise covered in a green background. She has dark brown skin and black hair tied in a high bun, and wears a black leotard with thin spaghetti shoulder straps. The dancer faces away from us, standing balanced on her left toe, which is grounded on a shadowy floor at the bottom center of the canvas. She faces her raised right leg and arm, which are both pointed and extended straight to towards the right edge of the canvas. She lifts her curved left arm towards the upper left corner of the canvas, her hand curved down.

Now, an interpretive analysis of the artwork.

My name is Donald Byrd and I'm the Executive Artistic Director at Spectrum Dance Theater.

It's a ballerina, but she's not in performance clothes. She's in practice clothes, and then her back is to us, we feel that she's not performing for us. And usually when we think of performers, we think that they're going to perform for us. And then also that she's black, and so this insertion of a black figure into what we normally think of as, you know, a white art form, a European art form. And also the fact that her body, not only is it black but it's muscular, if you look at her back it's very muscular, which is not what we think of for a ballerina is skinny and kind of waiflike and that way. The other thing that I see in the painting is that there's effort, and the whole idea of a ballet is that it is, it should look easy and effortless. And so her body has effort in it. And so that says something. And there's an Africaness aesthetic thing which is about you hit things and it's muscular. And so there's that in the Africaness aesthetic, it's actually, I think, embodied or embedded, in this image.

It's really confronting a lot of things about our notions about who I think who belongs, and who can, who has ownership, who can participate. And also the indistinct background in terms of determining location suggests to me perhaps that the only place that a black ballerina can exist is in some imagined place.

I think the meaning of this painting in the SAM collection is that it's an acknowledgement that artists of color have a place, and that by bringing these objects into this institution, the institution is acknowledging that it does have a place. And this work debunked the notion that black artists or artists of color don't have the skills. This work is very skillful, and the work that I've seen in the museum in the collection, they demonstrate a high level of skill, and this is the perfect example of conceptually and how thoughtful the work is by these artists.

Is something else going on here and what is that something else? What do you see as being the, something else that's going on here? And maybe does it confront your notion of what a, what a dancer is, what a ballerina is? Her blackness, does that change how you look at the painting?