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Dance to the Music of Our Time

A live exhibition

Performances from Hetain Patel, Florence Peake, Zadie Xa and Benito Mayor Vallejo, presented alongside 'Poussin and the Dance'


Presenting the work of four contemporary artists – Hetain Patel, Florence Peake, Zadie Xa and Benito Mayor Vallejo – 'Dance to the Music of Time' explores the relationship of storytelling and contemporary art through the use of movement, dance and choreography.

Taking its title from a painting by Nicolas Poussin and presented alongside the 'Poussin and the Dance' exhibition, the artists came together for a series of performances, film screenings and talks in the Gallery, from 15 October to 10 December 2021. 

You can watch recordings of each performance and learn more about the programme below. 

Image above: From Zadie Xa, 'Child of Magohalmi and the Echos of Creation', 2019. Photo by Brian Hartley 

Zadie Xa and Benito Mayor Vallejo: Scorpion

Image: A still from Zadie Xa and Benito Mayor Vallejo, 'Scorpion', 2021

“All bodies that vibrate change are seen as a threat.”

'Scorpion' brings together painting, live performance, costume and sound to tell a story of how disobedience, subterfuge, trickery and masquerade are embodied by characters to challenge the status quo, defy convention and seek alternative outcomes while providing protection to survive the dangers of this world.

Presented by Zadie Xa and Benito Mayor Vallejo, the performance considers the trickster archetype as it appears in mythology, folklore and popular culture.

Hetain Patel: Baa’s Gold 10

Image: A still from Hetain Patel, 'Baa's Gold 10', 2021

'Baa’s Gold 10' recounts the story of the burglary of Hetain Patel’s ‘Baa’ (or grandmother in Gujarati), whilst at home in Bolton where she lived alone. In a pursuit for gold, Patel’s Baa endured a violent ordeal at the hands of a gang of men who specifically targeted Hindu widows for their cultural tradition of only wearing gold jewellery. As the story is recounted multiple times by a group of different performers, Baa regains her own agency, becoming a superhero in her strength.

Patel presents his own domestic British Indian story in amongst the Western canon of art history as equally epic and fantastical, using both the traditional act of live performance, and the modern form of cinematic storytelling.

Florence Peake: Factual Actual

Image: A still from Florence Peake, 'Factual Actual', 2021

Large, exuberantly painted canvasses are folded, dragged, and suspended by five dancers, moving between flat and sculptural forms and theatrical elements of concealment and revelation.

'Factual Actual' treats the canvases, painted by Florence Peake, with a joyful irreverence, extending the relationship between dance and movement. Unpicking the romantic representation of dance in classical painting and its idealised depiction of the body, Peake looks at the idea of the collapse of the canon of white Western classical painting through the literal manipulation of the large canvases as they are collapsed in form. 

Curator Q&A

Image: Detail from Nicolas Poussin, 'A Dance to the Music of Time', about 1634. By kind permission of the Trustees of the Wallace Collection, London (P108) © The Trustees of the Wallace Collection

Priyesh Mistry, Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Projects at the National Gallery, and Curator of 'Dance to the Music of Our Time' introduces the exhibition in a Q&A. 

Priyesh explores the parallels between Poussin and the 'Dance to the Music of Our Time' artists' practice and approach to dance, movement and storytelling.

Unexpected view

Image: Benito Mayor Vallejo and Zadie Xa

Following their performances at the Gallery, Zadie Xa and Benito Mayor Vallejo joined Priyesh Mistry to talk about Poussin's 'Adoration of the Golden Calf'.

'Unexpected views' are monthly conversations between our curators and contemporary artists.

Hetain Patel on Poussin

Image: Hetain Patel

Hetain Patel discusses Poussin’s composition and technique in ‘The Adoration of the Golden Calf’ with reference to his own cinematic practice as part of a short film for 'Poussin and the Dance', also featuring curator Francesca Whitlum-Cooper and artists Andrew Lacey and Siân Lewis. 

Poussin and the Dance
9 October 2021 – 3 January 2022
See how Poussin was inspired by dance and the classical world of gods and mortals in our five-star exhibition 'Poussin and the Dance'
Find out more

Artist biographies

Zadie Xa and Benito Mayor Vallejo have been collaborating since 2016. They make performances, films, paintings, sculptures and hand-sewn costumes, drawing on a range of characters and imagery sourced from music, digital space, fashion, global mythologies and art history. Their work together has been informed by Xa’s experiences within the Korean diaspora, as well as the environmental and cultural context of the Pacific Northwest.

Hetain Patel is a visual artist and performance maker. He is interested in connecting marginalised identities with the mainstream in an effort to destabilise notions of authenticity and promote personal freedom. With an autobiographical starting point, he uses humour and the languages of popular culture to highlight familiarity within the exotic, recognition within the unknown. Working collaboratively with artists across disciplines, and with family members and non-professionals, Patel enjoys working across multiple languages, culturally and artistically.

Florence Peake is an artist who makes solo and group performance works intertwined with a visual art practice. Peake produces movement, interactive sculpture, paintings that use the whole body’s physicality, text, film and drawings through an approach which is at once sensual and witty, expressive and rigorous, political and intimate. Her painting practice comes together with sculpture and performance in a reciprocal nature: engaging in a shared dialogue and creating interrelations between dancers, audiences and sites.