Celebrating Diversity and Resilience: Exhibition explores immigrant & indigenous artists in American modern dance

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center has unveiled its latest exhibition, “Border Crossings: Exile and American Modern Dance, 1900–1955”, honouring the profound contributions of artists from marginalised communities to the evolution of modern dance. According to nypl.org, Drs. Ninotchka Bennahum and Bruce Robertson curate this groundbreaking display, which delves into themes of war, exile, inequality and injustice to present a more inclusive narrative of 20th-century dance.

Drawing from the rich archives of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, the exhibition sheds light on the geopolitical and racial dynamics that shaped American modern dance. Through the lens of border-crossing experiences, it celebrates the diverse array of artists who transformed their lived experiences into movement language, shaping the essence of modern dance as we know it today.


Visitors to the exhibition will encounter the life and work of trailblazing artists such as Si-Lan Chen, Katherine Dunham, Edna Guy, Michio Ito, José Limón, Pearl Primus, Uday Shankar, Anna Sokolow, and pivotal groups like the New Dance Group and the American Negro Ballet Company. Through a captivating display of photography, costumes, moving images, and archival artefacts, the exhibition illuminates a fresh perspective on the origins of modern dance in the United States.

The culmination of the exhibition features insightful interviews with contemporary choreographers like Kyle Abraham, Rachna Nivas and Pam Tanowitz, offering reflections on the enduring themes of exile and border crossings within their own artistic endeavours.

Katherine Dunham, 1949. Image:Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

“Border Crossings: Exile and American Modern Dance, 1900–1955” will be on display until March 16, 2024, in the Donald and Mary Oenslager Gallery at the Library for the Performing Arts. The exhibition is made possible through the generous support of patrons such as Jody and John Arnhold|Arnhold Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and The Jerome Robbins Foundation.

In celebrating the resilience and diversity of American modern dance through Border Crossings, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts acknowledges the visionary leadership of Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman, along with additional support from Judy R. and Alfred A. Rosenberg and the Miriam and Harold Steinberg Foundation. 

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