The National Museum of Dance, located on South Broadway in Saratoga Springs, New York, is a delightful venue you just shouldn’t miss.
In fact, if you’re lucky enough to live in, or vacation in this area known as ‘Queen of the spas,’ you may have already spent a few hours wandering around inside.
I’ve driven by it numerous times in the sixteen years I’ve been here, even photographed a delightful wedding in its enormous foyer a few years ago. I was impressed with every intricate detail, both in the architecture and numerous photographs of famous dancers all around me.
Unbelievably, though, it was just this past Spring, on a rare day off from work, that I actually parked my car and went inside, venturing past the museum’s main area, into the many rooms beyond.
I spent three delightful hours, soaking in the beauty of The Dance Museum’s extensive exhibits.
Established in 1986, Saratoga’s dance museum is actually the only one in the nation, one of a mere handful throughout the world, devoted entirely to dance and the people who ‘love and live’ the craft.
Residing in what was originally Saratoga’s historic Washington Bathhouse, today The National Museum of Dance boasts a schedule of rotating exhibits, as well as three permanent collections.
Emotionally moving images of world-renown male and female dancers lined the walls and drew me further inside. I stopped often, stared at their faces and saw both joy and pain in their eyes.
As soon as I caught sight of a wonderful exhibit titled MAKING ART DANCE, I started to smile. I couldn’t help it!
It chronicled three important P’s; Punk, Picture and Poetry and was a bright and colorful celebration of artists who’ve worked with choreographer Karole Armitage during the last 35 years of her huge success.
The costumes were so imaginative and original. I found myself amazed at the textures, patterns and sheer imagination. I tried to picture how each dancer had moved across the stage wearing them. Had these wonderful costumes helped express their passion for dance?
When I turned a corner, THE HISTORY OF TANGO greeted me.
It was a wonderful exhibit that spanned 125 years of this Argentine dance. I wasn’t the only one there, perusing costumes, artifacts, music and historical details. I even sat on a long bench, next to a young man. We nodded a greeting, then wore headphones and listened to upbeat, passionate music while watching dancers on several screens around us.
An on-going exhibit titled DANCERS IN FILM celebrated so many famous dancers, alongside much – loved actors. Talk about fancy footwork! Elvis, John Travolta, Ann-Margret were only a few of the stars high-lighted there.
The silver screen, with movies of romance, suspense and drama is captured and well-preserved here, in a long, narrow room of red and black.
I walked through rooms where costumes of dancers were encased in glass. I stood in front of a long wall, covered with black and white photographs of dancing history.
One of the most moving things I saw was a collection of ballet slippers. They were faded and worn, with the scuff marks of endless practice.
They were arranged in the middle of a wall, under glass. I could read the words of dedication in the swirls of their signatures. I could feel the pulsating love of dance in each one’s handwriting.
Tucked into a corner of the Museum I came across a permanent display covering the original WASHINGTON BATHHOUSE. Parts of it actually looked a little out of a science fiction book.
Two bathrooms stood side by side, both having been fully restored. They showcased the importance of the medicinal waters in Saratoga. With free-standing, pulsating showers and huge sauna boxes that exposed only one’s head, It was an interesting exhibit and I could see the beauty of the past in this section of Saratoga’s historic building.
Most recently, I admired a lavish exhibit covering the life of Rudolf Nureyev, one of the world’s most admired ballet dancers, especially of his generation.
I stood in front of historic photographs, read about his illustrious career as dancer, director and choreographer. The costumes were elaborate and seemed to soak in the mood of each character played during the 35 year span of Nureyev’s passion on stage.
It was quiet as I moved through each room. Even though I was not the only visitor that day, we were all very focused, taking in as much of the experience as possible.
Eventually, I walked out into the sunshine, back to my car, smiling. I felt elated, as if my life was somehow richer for having been there. I was already looking forward to my next visit.
Information for National Museum of Dance: 99 South Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866 518.584.2225