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Audiences Find Their Inner Dancer at Downtown Jules Feiffer Exhibition

LOWER MANHATTAN —Cartoonist Jules Feiffer's famous dancer came to life at a "Dance In" for the River to River Festival's "Express Your Inner Feiffer Dancer" exhibit.

The character, which was created for the artist's weekly Village Voice comic strip in 1957 and quickly became a New York icon, inspired onlookers as young as three to pirouet, sashay and jump Sunday under the instruction of Merce Cunningham Dance Company performer Andrea Weber.

The event was part of a festival exhibit which celebrates Feiffer's work, and which features six short films.

"I liked it because it was fun, and you got to move your body a lot," five-year-old dancer and TriBeCa resident Fiona Bell said about the event.

Presented by the Arts World Financial Center, the Jules Feiffer drawing exhibition is the first of a summer series of the River to River Festival's "Extraordinary Moves," a program that celebrates dance through film, art and movement with various performances by Weber, contemporary company STREB and other performers.

"A Dance to Spring," one of Jules Feiffers' famous dancer cartoons, was displayed in the World Financial Center for the 2011 River to River Festival.
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Jules Feiffer

Sunday's program was part of an exhibit which displayed "The Dancer Films," directed by Judy Dennis, and an exhibit of original cartoon strips, watercolors and iris prints by the Pulitzer-Prize-winning cartoonist.

The contemporary-style movement was taught in sections, based on Feiffer's series of black-and-white sketches of a single female dancer onstage.

"I thought it was lovely," Long Island resident Corinne Berger, 39, said after the show. "Dance is fabulous and it's wonderful to see a group of people move their bodies like that."

While the younger audience members were enthralled by the impromptu dance class, older viewers were excited by the opportunity to watch Feiffer in person as he sketched cartoons of the dancer character that appeared for 40 years in the Village Voice and the New York Times.

"It was amazing to see him," TriBeCa resident Victoria Weil, 41, said about the iconic New Yorker, who also illustrated childrens' books, adding that the show inspired her to introduce her children to Feiffer's work, such as the book The Phantom Tollbooth

"The character is fundamentally someone who finds it imperative to find the world through dance, and responds to New York with acute sensitivity," said Dennis.

"It's psychological, burning with intelligence," she added. "Only a curmudgeon wouldn't be delighted."

"Extraordinary Moves" continues through July 17th at the World Financial Center, located on 220 Vesey Street. The Drawings of Jules Feiffer exhibit will be on display in the World Financial Center Courtyard Gallery until Aug. 14.

"A Dance to Autumn" was created by Jules Feiffer in 1997.
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Jules Feiffer