Researchers Elswit and Bench Commissioned to Lead Dance Data Project on Choreographer Alvin Ailey for The Whitney Museum of American Art

November 13, 2023

Researchers Elswit and Bench Commissioned to Lead Dance Data Project on Choreographer Alvin Ailey for The Whitney Museum of American Art

Kate Elswit (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama) and Harmony Bench (The Ohio State University)

Kate Elswit (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama) and Harmony Bench (The Ohio State University) are leading a dance data project on choreographer Alvin Ailey, commissioned by the Whitney Museum of American Art as part of a major exhibition. Curated by Adrienne Edwards (Engell Speyer Family Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs), Edges of Ailey will open in September 2024, focusing on Ailey's life, work, and legacy.

Bench and Elswit’s work transforms archival materials into data-driven designs that make visible the interconnections of performance history across time, space, and bodies. They explain: “We believe that intentional data curation and visualization can reveal human aspects of ephemeral experiences by giving shape to the past and, with it, constructing a framework for historical imagination.”

The Whitney commission builds on methodologies for dance historical data curation and visualization developed under Bench and Elswit’s project Dunham’s Data: Digital Methods for Dance Historical Inquiry, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The core project team includes Antonio Jimenez-Mavillard (Spain) and Tia-Monique Uzor (UK), and additional assistance has been provided by doctoral researchers Amy Schofield and Wanda Hernandez, and Whitney and AAADT colleagues CJ Salapare, Joshua Lubin-Levy, and Dominique Singer.

Alongside the funding from the Whitney Museum, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is providing in-kind support for the project, with further research and development funding coming from the AHRC Research Development and Engagement Fellowship Visceral Histories, Visual Arguments: Dance-Based Approaches to Data. Additional support is provided by Central's Impact Acceleration Account and SPW Knowledge Exchange Funds, and The Ohio State University’s Arts Initiative and Global Arts and Humanities Discovery Theme.

For more information about the 'Edges of Ailey' exhibition, visit the Whitney Museum of American Art's website: https://whitney.org/exhibitions/edges-of-ailey .