Dance Paintings

Dance Art

Dance is an absolutely essential element of who we are as humans. It is an art form that has been a part of civilization since history was recorded. In its breathtaking beauty and diverse array of styles, dance is a way of connecting all of us to each other, past, present and future. It is transcendent, and yet culturally divergent, and to some societies it is as important as language itself as a means of self expression. 

Figurative Art

John Singer Sargent, El Jaleo 1882

El Jaleo by John Singer Sargent, 1882

But, painting Dance can be an almost insurmountable challenge to artists. How do you capture movement in a still image?
How do you hear music through the silence of a painting? Somehow art finds a way.  

These are some of the most famous historical paintings of dance:

Degas - Ballet Rehearsal (1873), Sargent - El Jaleo (1882), Oppler - Les Sylphides (1915), Matisse - La Danse (1909) 

Figure Drawing

These are art classics that have attempted to capture movement and form in paintings incorporating various styles.

Henri Matisse, La Danse 1909, figurative art

La Danse by Henri Matisse, 1909


Visual Art

With its unique ability to inspire the heart, soul, and imagination of audiences and participants alike it's no wonder that the essence of dance has been such a profound source of inspiration for painters throughout the ages. Theo Michael is no different in celebrating his passion for the visual art form of dance. 

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Tribute to Jack Vettriano, an oil painting by Theo Michael titled Moonlight Dancers

Moonlight Dancers

Moonlight Dancers, oil painting by Theo Michael, April 2017

Theo’s artistic journey into dance begins with the fabulous Moonlight Dancers painting. A man plays the fiddle while a couple dance in lockstep on the beach. The woman’s beautiful red dress is fluttering in the breeze and they are both gazing over to the musician, watching him closely, and moving in time with him. In the background the tide looks to be receding slowly, as the sun falls on the horizon.

Watch the creation of Moonlight Dancers

Dancing In The Rain immediately evokes images of Gene Kelly from the iconic movie Singing In The Rain. Where Gene tap danced across the soaking wet asphalt, Theo’s subjects dance in a Greek dance style together, lifting their heels and thrusting their legs outwards while moving their hips. Theo captures the rain fall exquisitely and a lantern ignites the painting with life and light. The long cast shadows of the dancers with their turned down fedoras, and the weathered pink canopy, are all trademarks of Theo's art noir style.

You can almost hear the sounds of Greek music playing, even in the silence of the painting, such is the abandon with which Theo’s subjects express themselves. 

Dance painting titled Dancing In The Rain by Theo Michael, created in March 2021

Dancing In The Rain

Dancing In The Rain, oil painting by Theo Michael, March 2021

The Singing Butler, a tribute

As anyone who has visited Theo's art studio knows, Scottish artist Jack Vettriano is one of Theo’s biggest inspirations. Theo tributes Jack and his painting The Singing Butler in one of his most enjoyable compositions. In keeping with Vettriano’s picture a butler and a maid assist a high society couple and their dancing passion. The butler, somewhat flustered wiping his brow, and the maid staunchly focused on her musical rendition.
We watch them flow across the canvas on a beach that could be anywhere. The woman is dancing barefoot, and the man is holding her close, dressed in a smart suit and bow-tie. For those who look closely, in the distance an umbrella is flying off into the flurry of wind, but no one cares, such is the spotlight on the dancing couple, just like in Vettriano’s painting.

Dance art, beach painting Tribute To The Singing Butler by Theo Michael

Tribute to the Singing Butler

Tribute To The Singing Butler, oil painting by Theo Michael, September 2020

In Dance To The End Of Love an enraptured couple are dancing the tango in the heat of the moment. The Tango is a social dance that originated in the 1880’s on the border between Argentina and Uruguay.
It was frequently practiced in brothels and bars where business owners employed bands to entertain their patrons. The tango then spread to the rest of the world. Here Theo displays the sexuality of the dance, with the subtle eroticism of the woman’s thigh exposed while pushing up against her male counterpart. In
the background tree lights and flowers offset the foreground and cars litter the parking lot. 

Dance art, an oil painting by Theo Michael, Dance To The End of Love

Dance To The End Of Love

Dance To The End Of Love, oil painting by Theo Michael created February 2018

Dance art, a beach painting by Theo Michael titled The Last Dance

The Last Dance is a painting

with an almost literary twist. A woman delicately steps towards her male dance partner, seducing him, but we quickly see he is carrying a knife behind his back. As a viewer we might ask is he plotting some desperate act of murder. Or is the truth, instead, more innocuous? This is in fact an example of Greek knife dancing, a Greek ritual popular at weddings or community events where a man dances with a long blade, eventually holding it in his mouth. The knife dance was Theo’s father’s party trick, and gained him some local notoriety.

Buy The Last Dance

Zorbas Dance

Greek dance is a venerable tradition being referred to by authors as old as Plato, and Aristotle. There are different styles and interpretations from all of the islands and surrounding areas. Dance was also used in regard to war as a form of military training, as well as a ritual that served as a mediator between the gods and humans. But, never was Greek dance more epitomized than in the music of composer Mikis Theodorakis in the movie Zorba The Greek.

Theo’s painting Zorba’s Dance was inspired by the movie Zorba The Greek, and the famous beach scene with the actor Anthony Quinn enthusiastically dancing to the unforgettable and popular soundtrack composed by Mikis Theodorakis. In Zorba’s dance, Zorba meaning to live each day, Theo’s characters are embracing
a Cypriot style of dance. Bicycles are thrown down, speaking to the spontaneity of the moment. The sun is blindingly bright in the background, and the camaraderie of the three men can be felt in spite of the stillness of the painting.

Dance Painting Zorbas Dance by Theo Michael, featuring three men by the beach dancing in the sand. The painting was created in October 2021

The painting Zorbas Dance

Zorbas Dance, oil painting by Theo Michael created October 2021

Dance, the hidden language of the soul

As famous dancer and choreographer Martha Graham said “Dance is the hidden language of the soul.” All of Theo’s works involving dance are expressively talking to us, telling us little stories about love and romance, but also passion, friendship, and community. The dance must go on, and it does in Theo’s paintings, in spite of the wind and the rain, the beach, or the lack of music, the dedication and intensity of the moment finds a way. Theo is always leading us inexorably towards the enchantment and glory of the moment. Such is the glimpse at the human heart, the serenity of the occasion, that his paintings dependably provide.

Author Marc Michael, January 24th 2022