Not many people can persuade 90-year-old women to dance.
But in 2012, multimedia artist Elisa Hamilton did just that with the Boston edition of “Dance Spot,” a series of interactive, pop-up art pieces and dance experiences that involve anyone and everyone who walks by.
“How could I create a place of possibility?” Hamilton said she asked herself.
She found the answer to her question through dance and worked to share this love with others.
After her success in Boston, Hamilton brought her creation to Philadelphia with three dance spots throughout the city. On Monday and Tuesday, Hamilton created the spots, including one at the Tyler School of Art. She was invited to come by Temple Contemporary’s Advisory Council through a suggestion made by councilmember and 2017 MFA candidate Destiny Palmer.
Hamilton began the project five years ago in the Fort Point neighborhood of Boston. During her commute each day, she was struck by the monotony of everyone walking to work with little personal interaction.
Hoping to break this sense of disconnection, Hamilton secured a grant from The Fort Point Arts Community to create her first five dance spots in the neighborhood as part of a public art series.
“I wanted to create an opportunity for joy in everyday moments,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton thinks people don’t dance enough. She said she believes there is a sense of freedom that comes with carefree dancing.
“I wanted an element of joy, an element of connection,” Hamilton said. “It’s a feeling we don’t get to have here in American culture.”
Hamilton studied painting at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, where she earned her BFA in 2007. In her work, she said she focuses on the beauty of art in ordinary experience.
Hamilton also likes combining two- and three-dimensional elements and focuses on creating interactive experiences. She considers the dance spots a “launching point” for all of her work now.
The dance spots themselves are made of chalk, which Hamilton draws by hand. It takes her about three hours to create.
For this week’s project, Hamilton said Temple Contemporary provided her two assistants, so creating the spaces at each location did not take as long.
Simone King, a sophomore international business major, served as one of Hamilton’s assistants. She also danced with Hamilton at the Dance Spot at Tyler.
“My favorite song to dance to was Michael Jackson’s ‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough,’” King said.
“There’s something about a memory that’s created with that,” said Sarah Biemiller, the assistant director of exhibitions and public programs for Temple Contemporary. “It can have a lasting impact.”
In addition to the Dance Spot outside the front steps of Tyler, the other two spots are at City Hall and Paine’s Park.
“I think the campus site is going to be the one people most likely interact with,” Biemiller said.
Biemiller added that Temple Contemporary advisers took Hamilton all over the city looking for the right locations. Hamilton said she wanted a place that was big and well-populated so she could engage with different populations.
Hamilton knew she wanted to perform at City Hall first, she said.
“People going to pay a parking ticket can see it and will look over and see people dancing,” Hamilton said.
She also chose Paine’s Park, a skate park near the Philadelphia Museum of Art, because of its clean concrete, bustling activity and proximity to a walking path.
In each Dance Spot, Hamilton outlines foot patterns to match a particular style of dance. On Tuesday outside of Tyler, participants danced to a funky music playlist in a Soul Train line.
Senior kinesiology major Adrian Hopkins was one of the dancers at Tyler.
“I felt like a child again,” he said.
Hamilton made the piece not just for dancers and art students, but for the whole Temple community, she said.
“It is for people who want to build and maintain community,” Hamilton said. “It is all about creating an opportunity for people to come together and begin again.”
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the date Dance Spot appeared at City Hall, which was Sept. 18. The story has been updated to reflect the proper date.