Thomas F. DeFrantz plays an unusual role in a new touring exhibition devoted to the portrayal of dance in American art. DeFrantz, a professor of dance who chairs Duke’s department of African and African American studies, consulted on “Dance! American Art 1830-1960,” on view at the Detroit Institute of Arts. But DeFrantz also appears in the exhibit, in a manner of speaking.
The show includes life-size videos that appear alongside 90 paintings, sculptures, photographs and other works of art depicting dance. Visitors walking through the exhibit can watch a video of DeFrantz demonstrating tap traditions and African-American dance forms.
“They really helps humanize the objects in a way,” DeFrantz said of the videos. “Older objects take on a vibrant contemporary life because they’re near videos of people who are living and breathing on the planet now.”