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Review: They dressed up as ‘guards’ at the NC Museum of Art. And then they danced.

The North Carolina Museum of Art might never have seen anything like this before.

Two women and two men dressed as museum guards, with vests and ties and buttoned-down white shirts, took over the closed museum.

And then they danced.

They twirled, swiveled their hips, jumped and kicked up their legs. As they pantomimed a guard’s role, they seemed to imitate the art, with their moves offering commentary on the works.

The Israeli-based Dana Ruttenberg Dance Group took over part of the museum as part of the 85th American Dance Festival, which is winding down after several weeks of performances at venues throughout Durham.

The piece called “NABA 2.0,”was interactive. At one point, spectators were instructed to sprawl out en masse on the floor and look at the ceiling.

Spectators were given pre-programmed audio guides and were instructed to choose music or talk selections to accompany the dancers’ movements. Dancers used big white signs with large black letters to prompt the audience.

“I’m trying to make the connection between dance and the visual arts as an art form,” choreographer Dana Ruttenberg said in an interview after the performance, one of many over several days.

Ruttenberg said she visited the museum in April, taking videos for the group to use in Israel as they worked on the piece. It was good that she did. The group had just two five-hour rehearsals in Raleigh for the performance specifically crafted to respond to the museum’s collection in the West Building.

Ruttenberg said she got the idea for “NABA 2.0” when she noticed more than a decade ago how audio guides lessened the fear some museum-goers have in viewing art.

“I recognized that fear,” she said, “and I think that fear is something people have about dance.”

No one seemed to be afraid on Monday. Audience members sat, they stood, a few even danced. Everyone had their own soundtrack to the piece.

Dancers, meanwhile, formed a painterly tableaux, offered a slapstick duet and gave a wacky guided tour. In sum, the piece was full of intellectual hilarity.

Linda Haac is a Chapel Hill-based freelance writer.


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