Sidewalk Dance Films at the Tollbooth

Wraparound graphics created for the Tollbooth Gallery. Art/photo: Jeffrey Curtis

Jeffrey Curtis has been described as “a choreographer who works with video and a video artist who works with movement.” In Sidewalk Dance Films, a project commissioned by Spaceworks Tacoma for the Tollbooth Gallery, he takes both dance and video out of context and into the street.

photo by Kris Crews _IMG_9919
Video dance performances made-to-measure for a miniature theater. Photo by Kris Crews


For those not familiar, the Tollbooth is an outdoor kiosk in downtown Tacoma that continuously screens artist videos and animation for pedestrian viewing pleasure. Through March 17, 2016, it is featuring a loop of contemporary dances made by Curtis, with a fresh collection appearing every two weeks. Some of these “sidewalk dances” are set outdoors in appropriately gritty urban environments, such as between the graffiti-covered columns of a concrete bridge. If you live, work or play downtown, break up your day with a free dance performance courtesy of this talented artist.

“Tempo” video still (detail). © 2013 Jeffrey Curtis

Once billed (before the ubiquitous appearance of smart phones) as “The World’s Smallest Gallery”, the Tollbooth is easy to miss amidst the buildings at S. 11th & Broadway. However, Curtis has cleverly enveloped it in a bold wraparound of color graphics (including a Warhol-esque portrait on flaming red) that plays up its theater-esque contours, while perfectly framing the dynamic performances on screen. Three elements: the urban dance choreography, wraparound 2-D graphics (glued down with wheatpaste in the manner of concert posters), and the kiosk’s transformation into a to-scale theater work strikingly together as a whole.

Spaceworks photo

Each of the video loops installed at the Tollbooth will feature approximately 45 minutes of dancing. Pieces on the first video include “No. 18”, “L’instant suspendu”, “Le Saut Infini”, “PAINTED”, “Self-Defense”, “Henka Dance” and “Feast”. As a dancer himself, Curtis is able to selectively emphasize the nuance of movement, narrative and emotion in his videos, with results that draw the viewer in close. He danced in New York, then received his MFA from the University of Washington and now resides in Seattle. His work includes documentaries, short films, multi-screen installations, and projections for live performance and can be seen on Tendu/TV and as a part of the American Dance Festival Anthology DVD series.  – By Lisa Kinoshita

Sidewalk Dance Films by Jeffrey Curtis at the Tollbooth Gallery, S. 11th & Broadway in Tacoma, through March 17, 2016.