Slow Dancing (2012)

Slow Dancing, an outdoor video installation by David Michalek

Installation ran April 20—29, 2012

Facade of Widener Library, Harvard YardFacade of Widener Library, Harvard Yard
Presented by the Public Art Program of the Office for the Arts at Harvard and the ARTS FIRST festival, with support from the Office of the President and Harvard Campus Services. 

Special thanks to the staff of Widener Library.


Stretching seconds into minutes in 'Slow Dancing' by Jeffrey Gantz of the Boston Globe.

At his own speed by Colleen Walsh of the Harvard Gazette.

The Callie Crossley Show 4/24/12 Callie Crossley talks to Jill Johnson and Alicia Anstead about the peotry in motion that is Slow Dancing.

Harvard Yard Shows Off 'Slow Dancing' By Anneli L. Tostar, Contributing Writer at The Harvard Crimson.

About The Installation

Nejla YatkinSlow Dancing, David Michalek's video installation featuring larger-than-life, hyper-slow-motion video portraits of dancers and choreographers, offers insight into the physics of movement and the essence of creativity. The artist recorded each subject's movement, against a black backdrop, at 1,000 frames per second (compared to standard film's 30 frames per second) to produce a perception-altering performance. Freed from the constraints of gravity and context, the dancer on the screen reveals the complexity of gesture and judgment that normally would escape the viewer's eye.

With these images, Michalek conjures a fluid stillness, creating a meditative time and space amidst the rush and crush of contemporary life.  Slow Dancing engages the senses and the mind in an encompassing experience of awareness. The work also transforms Harvard Yard, calling forth its symbolic significance as a place for contemplation. 

While each performer on the outsized screen mesmerizes, the trio of dancers randomly projected also presents a thought-provoking comparison of culturally diverse interpretations of dance and gesture. Michalek documented an international cohort of over 40 dancers—from virtuosi of ballet and Balinese classical dance to masters of hip-hop and krumping—including Harvard's own Jill Johnson, Director of the OFA Dance Program and faculty member in the Department of Music. (View information about all the performers, and read comments by the artist.)

Slow Dancing may be approached at multiple levels—as sanctuary, cross-cultural discovery, experiment in image technology, biological and neuronal investigation, exploration of perception, singular artistic vision, and more. This rich confluence of understandings closely aligns with the creative innovation and interdisciplinary emphasis that thrives at Harvard, strengthening the arts and other disciplines at the University. It also represents a paradigm of arts practice that ARTS FIRST, Harvard's annual festival of student and faculty creativity, encourages and celebrates with its 20th anniversary this year. 

For further reflection on Slow Dancing, read an essay by Alex Ross '90, critic at The New Yorker and author of The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, acclaimed by the New York Times as one of the ten best books of 2007, and Listen to This, released in 2010.

Sculpting Movement and Time: Making Slow Dancing from Moving Portrait on Vimeo.

Slow Dancing is represented by Opus 3 Artists.  

Major support for Slow Dancing provided to David Michalek by commissioning grants from the Los Angeles Music Center; Sadler's Wells, London; Luminato: Toronto Festival of Arts and Creativity; and Walton Arts Center, Arkansas. Portraits of Sandra Lamouche and Clarence Ford are commissioned by Luminato: Toronto Festival of Arts and Creativity.

Additional Information 

Official David Michalek Site

Official Slow Dancing Film Site