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Tate Modern puts its best foot forward and pulls in the crowds

Bringing dance into galleries pushes institutions outside their comfort zones

Curators and choreographers are asking art museums for novel amenities, including sprung floors, showers and special dispensation for bottled water in white-cube spaces. Tate Modern in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam are at the forefront of bringing dance into spaces primarily designed to show inanimate art. For two days last May, the French choreographer Boris Charmatz transformed Tate Modern into the Musée de la Danse, bringing 90 dancers into the institution’s galleries. The event drew 54,382 visitors, who were all encouraged to join in. On one of the days, the museum’s vast Turbine Hall became a mass warm-up space.

“We tested the elasticity of the institution, asking, ‘Can we use the art-handling lift, can we have live bodies dancing next to the collection?’” says Catherine Wood, the Tate’s curator of contemporary art and performance. “I fantasise about being able to [repeat the event] for 48 hours every five years.” In the meantime, Wood is looking forward to the reopening in June of Tate Modern’s Tanks, raw spaces in which she helped to organise 15 weeks of live events in 2012. The museum’s multi-storey extension above, which is also due to open in June, means even more potential space for dance. “I’ve got my eyes on that too,” she says.