Dancing with Mondrian

By Annette Chauncy.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) is well known for his abstract art. However, few are aware that he was known as ‘The Dancing Madonna’ in Holland and that he was passionate about the modern dances of the 1920s particularly, the Charleston, Tango and Foxtrot. It is widely acknowledged that Mondrian practised dance steps in his art studio, but historians seem to view the practise as quirky rather than being greatly influential upon his artistic development and arts practice. This paper explores some aspects of ballroom dancing which could have stimulated Mondrian’s ideas and discusses how those thoughts may have become integrated into his painting. Mondrian disliked the Waltz as he associated it with emotion. Instead he preferred the dancing style of the Charleston which emphasized straight lines and ninety degree angles. Mondrian’s idea of white and grey as ‘non-tones’ which he viewed as ‘noise’ can be compared with the space created by the couple’s dancing frame and may be illustrated through the sustained pauses in the Fast Foxtrot (known currently as the Quickstep). Finally, Mondrian’s dynamic equilibrium theory (the active duality of opposites to create stability) can be outlined in the Tango where female and male create individuality through the dynamic tension of opposing and parallel moves.

Keywords: Piet Mondrian, Waltz, Charleston, Foxtrot, Tango, Line and Emotion, Non-tone Theory, Dynamic Equilibrium Theory

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp.179-192. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.861MB).

Annette Chauncy

Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW, Melbourne, Australia

I have enjoyed the creative arts throughout my life and this has evolved into a three-way career within the last ten years (some readers may be interested to know that I learnt ballet as a child for ten years). I am a practicing artist, have taught arts practice and art history in tertiary institutions and have utilized the arts therapeutically in a number of programs and settings. This paper has emerged from my Honors dissertation paper which investigated the role of music in the development of abstract art. I am currently studying an Art Therapy Masters at La Trobe University, Melbourne.


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