Static dance

Honeybuns and I went to see Dansmuseet today. It’s located right in the middle of Stockholm in a former bank palace. The government wants to take over their premises and use as office space and let the museum find new space elsewhere, so in the entrance was a list to sign to protest this.

The exhibits are in the large central hall, clearly designed to impress the visitors to the bank. Unfortunately this also means that the acoustics are not the best with a high ceiling and stone walls. On exhibition is mainly various dance costumes, half from around the world, half from Swedish ballet ensembles, this reflecting the interests of Rolf de Maré, who started the collection. I understand there is also a large library, but this is not immediately accessible to casual visitors. By some of the exhibits were video screens, showing dances related to the costumes, but in order to not drown the entire hall in sound, all the screens were muted, so one had to make do without explanations. I thought that the type of directed audio hoods used at the National Museum of Natural History would have been useful.

By the ballet exhibits was a larger surface onto which was projected dance clips from various sources. Unfortunately the projection surface was textile draped against the wall rather than a proper screen, so the image was always slightly blurred.

In a little room (actually the repurposed bottom of a stairwell) next to this was a proper projection screen and a strict-looking lady would turn on the video player according to schedule to show full dance films, rather than just clips. Choreographies by Isadora Duncan, it turned out to be.

The museum café and shop had a very nice view towards the Royal Palace, but didn’t serve anything I could eat, so we left the museum. The overall feeling was slight disappointment—we would have liked to see more in the way of dance, in particular outside the context of Western ballet. I also suspect that the museum’s resistance to moving is mostly due to the convenience of the staff, as the premises felt so unsuited to museum activities, especially inherently noisy ones such as dance. (Strangely enough, the Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities, located in another former bank palace just a couple of houses down the street, seems to have made much more effective use of their premises.) I wonder if it would make sense to colocate Dansmuseet with the Museum of Ethnography, though that may require extending their building a bit.

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