exclusive: marcel dzama brings dancing dadaism to the new york city ballet

The multidisciplinary artist -- and serious dance enthusiast -- is the fourth artist to participate in the New York City Ballet’s Art Series. Find out how Dzama’s pal Amy Sedaris help make it happen.

by Emily Manning
07 January 2016, 5:00pm

Photography Benedict Brink

When i-D first interviewed Marcel Dzama -- the Canadian-born, Brooklyn based artist who counts Arcade Fire as collaborators -- he was boogieing around David Zwirner's New York gallery in preparation for his Dadaist disco show, Une Danse des Bouffons. About a year later, Dzama again laced up his dancing shoes at the NY Art Book Fair, where he hosted a mini marathon of choreography from his video Death Disco Dance. Now, we're happy to announce Dzama's most ambitious dance related-project yet: a commission for the New York City Ballet's fourth annual Art Series.

Since 2013, the NYCB Art Series has brought original collaborations with contemporary art's brightest stars to the public during NYCB performances at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center (you might remember Dustin Yellin's 3,000 pound glass sculptures from last year). Dzama's multidisciplinary installation will continue themes explored in Une Danse des Bouffons: a different Marcel (Duchamp)'s chess obsession. Just like Dzama's Jester's Dance, the NYCB installation will feature video, drawings, and sculpture.

But Dzama's commission also marks the first time in NCYB's history that an artist has simultaneously created work for both the Art Series and a production. In addition to creating the Promenade installation, Dzama designed the sets and costumes for NYCB Resident Choreographer Justin Peck's winter season world premiere ballet, The Most Incredible Thing, which is based on a Hans Christian Anderson story.

"The idea of collaborating started in September of last year," Dzama explained on the phone. "I brought Justin to the David Zwirner show and he really liked the work. Seeing all the dance elements involved, he thought it would be a perfect fit," Dzama said. While the pair had intended to write an original piece with Bryce Dessner -- co-founder and guitarist of The National who provided The Most Incredible Thing's original score -- Dzama said the Anderson story proved a perfect project. "It has all these moments of different characters, so it's been fun for me to draw all these characters and design their world."

The multidisciplinary master is no stranger to constructing elaborate sets and costumes for his unique performance videos (he created enormous masks out of Mexican apple juice containers for the Zwirner show). But where Une Danse des Bouffons saw help from Kim Gordon and Hannelore Knuts, this time, Dzama's pal Amy Sedaris is joining in on the fun.

In an NYCB video providing a first peek into Dzama's whimsical world, Sedaris plays a (far bossier) Dzama directing a rehearsal. Dzama said Sedaris' involvement stemmed from their personal friendship, which has developed over the past three years after doing an art swap. "She knew of my work but didn't know I was the person who did that work! I ended up doing a trade with her because I love her crafts; she wanted a drawing for her godchild and she did some crafts for me." Sedaris' godson is the same age as Dzama's own son, so they often have dinner together (I like to picture them all roasting hotdogs on rakes).

I asked Dzama who's the better dancer -- the former Sonic Youth frontwoman or Jerri Blank -- but he was sweetly diplomatic: "I don't think I actually made Kim dance for Une Danse des Bouffons, so I haven't seen her moves yet! She can definitely look cool and strike a pose. But Amy's got some real dance moves on her."

Dzama's installation will be on view throughout NYCB's 2016 Winter Season, which spans from January 19 through February 28. The Most Incredible Thing will show during three special Art Series performances on February 6, 11, and 19. Tickets are just $30, and all audience members will recieve a limited edition commemorative gift created by Dzama -- one you don't even need to trade your precious crafts for. General sale tickets won't be available until Monday, January 11, but using the following information, you can score one right now!

New York City Ballet Art Series Presents Marcel Dzama
FEB 6 EVE, 11, 19
All tickets $30
Exclusive Pre-Sale: Thursday, January 7 at 12 PM — Saturday, January 9 at 11:59 PM
Promo code: DZAMA16 (must be used to unlock tickets during the pre-sale)
Tickets link: nycballet.com/artseries


Text Emily Manning
Photography Benedict Brink

Amy Sedaris
Marcel Dzama
new york city ballet
Art Series