Nick Mauss Fuses Dance and Art for a Meditation on American Modernist Ballet

© Paula Court

In his new Whitney show, painter-choreographer Nick Mauss inhabits the space between art forms.

Dance and fine art have converged successfully in the past—think of the Ballets Russes of the early twentieth century, or later, the collaborations between Robert Rauschenberg, Merce Cunningham, and John Cage. But as dance increasingly makes its way into museums, spaces often ill-adapted to the form, curators have struggled to find their footing. Nick Mauss, who describes himself as equal parts visual artist, curator, and choreographer, is now aiming to address that.

The 37-year-old, New York-based artist is known primarily for his kinetic oil-and-ink drawings, many done on mirrors. Most recently he has become interested in ballet, and particularly in exploring the connection between visual art and performance. His newest installation “Transmissions,” which opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art on March 16 and runs until May 14, examines the legacy of American modernist ballet of the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. Mauss has selected archival materials—including digitized rehearsal reels from the Jerome Robbins Dance Division at the New York Public Library, and ballet photography by Carl Van Vechten and George Platt Lynes—and placed them alongside his own gestural pieces. In the middle of it all is a physical stage, on which a rotation of dancers perform improvised choreography based on their collaboration with Mauss, and by the works that surround them.

Mauss intends for visitors to feel immersed in a single work of art—a visitor will literally be able to see oneself among the dancers, reflected in the various mirrors—and to notice the way movement bounces among the mediums, echoing between photographs, videos, and drawings, bringing them to life.

© Paula Court

The choreography performed in this exhibition will take place on the below days and times:


12-4 pm
Performers: Alex Jacob, Maggie Cloud, Anna Witenberg, Jasmine Hearn


12-4 pm
Performers: Matilda Sakamoto, Kristina Bermudez, Burr Johnson, Alexandra Albrecht


12-4 pm 
Performers: Alex Jacob, Maggie Cloud, Burr Johnson, Quenton Stuckey


12-4 pm 
Performers: Matilda Sakamoto, Kristina Bermudez, Brandon Collwes, Quenton Stuckey

6-10 pm
Performers: Evelyn Kocak, Ahmaud Culver, Anna Witenberg, Jasmine Hearn


12-4 pm
Performers: Maki Kitahara, Elizabeth Hepp, Benedict Nguyen, Forrest Hersey 


12-4 pm
Performers: Maki Kitahara, Elizabeth Hepp, Brandon Collwes, Forrest Hersey