Enjoy the dance at Anna Bier Gallery


By Marilyn Delk


When one views Alan Capasso’s work currently on display at the Anna Bier Gallery, it appears that he paints and sculpts dancers and that this show is themed around the classic ballet Swan Lake; and that is a correct initial assessment. However, Alan explains that he paints joy, despair, love, and loss, and that dancers are simply the vocabulary he uses. Once a dancer himself, he compares dance to expressing a message in an image rather than words. This concept is aptly illustrated in “Dance is poetry in three dimensions,” a montage of scenes with dancers in various classic positions as well as close-up portraits of dancers portraying specific characters.

However, the eclectic artist also utilizes words in his work, as the viewer soon discovers when examining his titles. “The moon inhales the dust of dreams until bold enough to drunk dial the witch to pay her homage” is the title not really describing the lovely trio of graceful dancers pictured in one of the works; however, the poetry inspires deeper thought about what really lies within this pretty picture which hangs directly above a drawing of a ballerina as the tragic dying swan embodying the reality of the simply stated title, “Love is Sacrifice.”

A depiction of young dancers circled around their instructor, “Dress Rehearsal” is among the few works with brief titles; this pastel and charcoal piece calls up memories to anyone who has ever been involved with a dance student being readied for the annual revue, evoking the excitement, joy, dread, and anticipation of the season-ending performance. The inner thoughts of a dancer depicted at the barre are revealed in the title of another piece, “It is easy to be heavy, hard to be light. Gravity is my only enemy,” spurring thought and emotion in the viewer. “To compare them to dreams is not to deny that dreams come true” shows three lithe females on pointe, arms outstretched above them, perhaps reaching for those dreams, somehow inspiring the viewer to see hope for the future in spite of the reality of the moment.

In addition to his own words in his titles, Alan utilizes the work of poets he admires. “John Henry with his hammer makes a little spark, That little spark is love dying in the dark” by Langston Hughes serves as the title for a dramatic drawing of a male and female duo of dancers which hangs beside the same couple in a different pose entitled “Barefoot we walk on a thin road of black ice, The fear and fascination of falling.” Once again, the art is enhanced by the words evoking deeper thought about the scenes depicted.

A work looking down on an appealing ballerina with outstretched arm inspires cheerier thoughts and was given this encouraging title from the words of Walt Whitman: “Keep your face always toward the sunshine—and shadows will fall behind you.” A serious young dancer thoughtfully adjusting the ribbons on her ballet slippers has a title taken from C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books: “But courage, child; we are all between the paws of the true Aslan.” Simply reading those words somehow inspires courage.

A few sculptures are also on display conjuring up more images from Swan Lake, including main characters Odette and Odile and The Little Swans, depicting a line of dancers in a classic pose from the ballet. However, another sculpture does not directly relate to the ballet; in Fatherhood, Day One, a figure stands atop a big round ball in a balancing act where one could fall at any moment. As a father of seven, the artist asserts that his balancing act doesn’t get any easier as time passes.

Many other dancing depictions as well as a few charming photoshopped images looking like historic photographs can be discovered among the delights on display. Alan Capasso’s “Dance Noir” will remain on display in the Anna Bier Gallery, located within Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall, through June 25. The Gallery is open Sundays from noon until 2 p.m. or others times by appointment; to schedule a visit, contact Gallery Director CeCelia Rice at [email protected].

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