The relationship between dance and the visual arts is not one that has been explored anywhere at length. Too often the emphasis has been on the work of easel artists who created decor for the theatre. Seldom has the interaction between the visual arts and dance been considered on its own terms. There is little attempt to find a link between a dance aesthetic and a corresponding one in painting. The temptation is, quite rightly, to see this link as a reflection of the times. The imagery of the Romantic ballet in the nineteenth century, for instance, is so obviously an outgrowth of literary ideas that it is easy to overlook the changes ballet made in its own technique and aesthetic as a result.
There is a tendency to see dance as lagging behind the other arts and literature in any period. At best, one could say that certain ideas are in the air and that they affect all forward-looking artists. This was especially evident at the beginning of the twentieth century where mould-breaking became the norm – where new forms in all thinking emerged and where form and content fused into the movement generally known as Modernism.
It is, therefore, natural to look specifically at the period between 1890 and 1990 concentrating on artists from the United Kingdom. If this is not the complete story of the relationship between dance and art, it offers a very elucidating examination precisely because it deals with artists in both fields whose primary aim was to break with the past and create something new in a country which was at the fore of the modernist movement. The aim of this presentation is to illustrate ways in which both the experience of dance and the approach of its underlying principles of rhythm, time and spatial organization have had an impact on all the arts during the past century.