Blondell Cummings: Dance as Moving Pictures is the first monograph dedicated to the pivotal work of African American choreographer and video artist Blondell Cummings. The book accompanies an exhibition of the same name co-organized by the Getty Research Institute and Art + Practice, on view at Art + Practice in Los Angeles from September 18, 2021 through February 19, 2022.
A foundational figure in American dance, Cummings bridged postmodern dance experimentation and Black cultural traditions. Through her unique movement vocabulary, which she called « moving pictures, » Cummings combined the visual imagery of photography and the kinetic energy of movement in order to explore the emotional details of daily rituals and the intimacy of Black home life. In her most well-known work Chicken Soup (1981), Cummings remembered the family kitchen as a basis for her choreography; the dance was designated an American Masterpiece by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2006.
This book draws from Cummings’s personal archive and includes performance ephemera and numerous images from digitized recordings of Cummings’s performances and dance films; newly commissioned essays by Sampada Aranke, Thomas F. DeFrantz, and Tara Aisha Willis; remembrances by Marjani Forté-Saunders, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Meredith Monk, Elizabeth Streb, Edisa Weeks, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar; a 1995 interview with Cummings by Veta Goler; and transcripts from Cummings’s appearances at Jacob’s Pillow and the Wexner Center for the Arts. Bringing together reprints, an extended biography, a chronology of her work, rarely seen documentation, and new research, this book begins to contextualize Cummings’s practice at the intersection of dance, moving image, and art histories.