Paula Rego is a Portuguese-born artist who works with painting and pastels. She started out with abstraction, quickly moving towards highly figurative paintings depicting fairytales-driven subjects.
Although at a first glance her paintings can seem having a very childish topic, with a first appearence of children’s books illustrations, but the more you look at them the more you feel the unease. Her painting have often some details that change the overall atmosphere of the painting itself.
The Dance is one of the clearest examples of this subtle distortion of the happy reality depicted in Rego’s paintings: there are some peasants dancing together under the moonlight, but there is no joy on their faces, the house on the hill behind them seems a very creepy presence, there is a heavy silence. It seems that something very bad is about to happen, even though, according to the title, the theme of the painting is just a dance.
The women depicted in the painting are representing all the ways a woman can be such: three women of different ages dacing together in a corner, a pregnant woman dancing with a man, and the woman to the left might be the representation of the artist herself (the size of this last figure is much bigger than the other ones too).
The artist is known also for putting psychoanalysis into the game, drawing an painting distorted faces, animals that behave like humans, strange interactions. Some critics linked some of her works to strong sexual allusions, like for example the one titled Two Girls and a Dog, linking her to feminism as well. The Dance doesn’t have these allusions, but the overall feeling of it comes from a long practice with these topics too.