DANCE! - Bata Shoe Museum: Toronto, Canada. 1997©

With an explosion of music, video, digital effects, sculpture and colourful signage, exhibition DANCE! at Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, recounts the history of social dance through the last three centuries as it pertains to design and manufacture of shoes. The exhibition focused on several major styles of dance, from minuet to rock n’ roll.

Design & Construction Studio: MC Sq’d.
Creative Director: R.Milo; Chief Designer: R.Cortés; Museum Director: E.Maeder; Curator: J.Walford; Producer: Tobias Sallewsky ; Carpentry: Richard Smid; Audio & Kinescope Components: M. Bates of Mystus Interactus; Wire figures & Kinescope sculptures: Tom McAneney
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Dance is a dynamic entity. Weather through film, video, or kinetic sculpture, the show had to be about movement. The designers decided to project interactive video footage of people actually performing dances from the era – accompanied by lively music onto the set of each section. All of this without forgetting about two things: historical accuracy and shoes.
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Before he constructed the wire mannequins Toronto artist Tom McAneney looked at photos and drawings of dancers from each era to familiarise himself with their motion and lines. He then drew individual body parts on paper, nailed them to a table and wrapped 3 millimetre steel wire around them to get the basic shape and outline. The mannequins when finished, were “dressed” in plastic mosquito netting by Bata Shoe Museum director Edward Maeder.
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On top of each Kinescope was a small sculpture representing the era in question which R. Cortés, project’s chief designer designed and built as a scale model – microphone for swing and imperial wreath for quadrille (above). The artist Tom McAneney then built the finished sculptures out of stiff paper, wires, bleach bottles, plastic drinking cups, ping-pong balls and a number of other easily accessible and inexpensive objects. The sculptures were painted with white fluorescent paint so they appeared to glow when hit with black light from inside the Kinescopes.
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The era covering the World War 2 brought a new wave of music and dance by artists such as Frank Sinatra, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa. Shoes worn by Jane Russell and Ava Gardner were displayed in drum sets that set the mood of that period.
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Advent of rock n’ roll also brought the TV set into our living rooms which in this case were used to display the shoes of the era. The vintage sets that were not used for displaying shoes were fed short video loops from programs such as American Bandstand featuring performances by Chubby Checker or Chuck Berry.
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Each of the seven stations had a 2 metre tall Kinescope, a cylindrical structure similar to the 19th. century Zoetrope, which was a precursor to early motion pictures. Light was projected up from the base of the Kinescope and as the viewer spun the middle cylinder while looking through vertical slits along its side, the still pictures of the dancers appeared to be animated. The “moving” figures were cut frame-by-frame from the video footage, transferred into silhouettes and printed digitally on acetate.
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Each Kinescope was an “information centre” where graphic timelines as explanations and historical facts were wrapped around every cylinder. The “wings” on the side of Kinescopes – edited by the curator J. Walford, displayed words of critics and musicians marking each period the music and dance advanced through the ages. The Kinescopes were also equipped with vintage listening devices and as the visitor spun the drum and leaned in to the speaker, the track played the appropriate sound bite .