For the Love of Dance and Photography
Jack Mitchell photographed artists and icons from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Alfred Hitchcock for top publications such as the New York Times, Newsweek, and Vogue. But a visit to Jacob’s Pillow in 1949 convinced Mitchell that dancers, with their molded bodies and willing minds, made stellar subjects. During his five-decade career he took thousands of shots of dancers, more than 160 of which became Dance Magazine covers.
Mitchell, for many years the official photographer for American Ballet Theatre, died November 7 at age 88 in his home in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, said the New York Times. Particularly knowledgeable and creative about lighting, he was also known for his ability to capture his subject’s personality, and do it artistically. Craig B. Highberger, writer/director/producer of the documentary Jack Mitchell: My Life Is Black and White, told Dance Studio Life that ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie said Mitchell would direct the dancer, the lighting, and the background to achieve the right effect—in effect, “choreographing for the camera.”
Mitchell’s love of dance was so strong, Highberger said, that in 1983 he created Sea Duet: A Ballet for Still Photography, a portfolio of 30 photos of two dancers designed to evoke sea life. That project led to a dance performance in 2007 at Surfscape Contemporary Dance Theatre in New Smyrna Beach, which Mitchell choreographed himself. “It was one of his proudest moments,” Highberger said. “Merce Cunningham told me Jack Mitchell’s photography of dance was so good because he understood it was about capturing a moment in both time and space.”
Schools Study Educational Benefits of Dance
Six Pennsylvania higher-ed institutions are exploring how dance can enhance a liberal arts education, thanks to a $450,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Easton’s Lafayette College, the grant recipient, will partner with the five other Dance Consortium members of Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges (Cedar Crest, Moravian, and Muhlenberg Colleges, and Lehigh and DeSales Universities) in an initiative running now through October 2016. It will include short- and long-term residencies with guest choreographers, classes, workshops, performances, and commissions of new work.
In addition, faculty and staff members will be working together to uncover how dance and performance can connect with other disciplines within the liberal arts curriculum and help to advance learning in the humanities, engineering, and the sciences. “We don’t just want dancers, but students interested in how dance works in our culture,” says Suzanne Westfall, director of the arts and professor of English and theater at Lafayette.
Applause Continues for Tharp and Baryshnikov
Twyla Tharp and Mikhail Baryshnikov have met many times at the intersection of classical tradition and contemporary imagination, and both continue to receive honors from a dance community that’s grateful for their influence.
In 2013, choreographer and creative visionary Tharp was awarded the 62nd annual Capezio Dance Award from Capezio Ballet Makers Dance Foundation. And on May 19, ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov will accept the 2014 Spotlight Award from Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. By both respecting and reimagining their art, exemplified while working together on concert pieces such as Push Comes to Shove or the film White Nights, Tharp and Baryshnikov have challenged expectations about what ballet or modern dancers can or should do.
Contemporary Tour of China
Bowen McCauley Dance’s nine-day China tour last fall was an “exhilarating” experience for the Arlington, Virginia–based company. The company’s performances as part of the 10th annual Guangdong Dance Festival in Guangzhou, China, made it the first American dance company to perform at this highly regarded celebration of contemporary dance.
BMD engagement and operations manager Joanna Estes Janascius told Dance Studio Life the company’s four festival performances included three outdoor performances on Shamian Island in Guangzhou for as many as 800 people.
During the November 4 to 13 tour, BMD also performed for 1,200 middle-schoolers at Nanhai Experimental High School in Foshan, China, and for 300 students at Tianjin University of Sport. Company founder Lucy Bowen McCauley—one of the first teachers in the Washington, DC, area to offer free weekly dance classes for people with Parkinson’s disease (see “Pas de Deux with Parkinson’s,” DSL, May/June 2011)—taught a Dance for PD class at Southern Hospital in Guangzhou.
Atlanta Ballet will begin its upcoming season with a two-week tour to China—the first major international tour in more than 10 years for the 84-year-old company.
The ballet will join 11 other companies from around the world for China’s inaugural “International Ballet Season,” hosted by the National Ballet of China. Nineteen members of the Atlanta company will depart October 29 for the engagement, which will include seven performances at various venues throughout Beijing, China. Their return is scheduled for November 11.
As the sole representative from the United States, the company has designed a program called “Atlanta Ballet presents Dance from America” featuring the pas de deux from George Balanchine’s patriotic Stars and Stripes; Christopher Wheeldon’s neo-classical Rush; Atlanta Ballet resident choreographer Helen Pickett’s Prayer of Touch; and the wedding night pas de deux from Stanton Welch’s Madame Butterfly.
“We are honored to have the extraordinary opportunity to visit China and represent our city and state abroad,” said Atlanta Ballet artistic director John McFall. “The birth of this festival speaks volumes about the energy, enthusiasm, and vision of the Chinese dance community, and we are thrilled to be at the forefront of the movement. We are also looking forward to being a part of the rich exchange of ideas and culture. I’m positive that our time there will impact the company in profound ways, and it’s inspiring to know that we’ll be able to bring those experiences back to our patrons.”
For more information, visit www.atlantaballet.com/touring.
Yang Meiqi, who pioneered modern dance in her native China, will be awarded the 2010 Balasaraswati/Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching by the American Dance Festival in a ceremony July 18 at Duke University’s West Campus in Durham, North Carolina. Choreographer Shen Wei, founder of Shen Wei Dance Arts and a former student of Yang Meiqi, will speak at the ceremony.
“Yang Meiqi’s brave and unrelenting pursuit to successfully build an unknown art form in her home country unequivocally deems her the mother of modern dance in China,” the ADF said in a press statement.
With the help of the ADF and its teachers, Yang established the first modern dance program at the Guangdong Dance Academy and founded the country’s first modern dance troupe, the Guangdong Modern Dance Company.
Yang served as director of teaching and research and principal at the Guangdong Dance Academy and has also been director of the Chinese Dancer’s Association and a member of the Guangzhou Municipal Arts Educational Committee.