A World of Dance Video Wonders
We've all gotten lost in the wonderful wilds of YouTube. There are dance treasures to be found there, if you look hard enough—grainy archival clips, or snippets of Russian ballet performances stealthily filmed by audience members.
But until very recently, the real dance video treasure trove could only be accessed from the third floor of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. There, the Jerome Robbins Dance Division houses an astonishing number of dance films—more than 24,000 videos of nearly everything you could imagine. It's the dance film mothership.
Those of you who haven't been able to make a pilgrimage to the library, however, aren't out of luck: Now some of the Dance Division's video riches are available online. Thousands of hours of film have already been digitized, with more to come. Though most must still be watched at the library, the collection available offsite is still fascinating, and fascinatingly diverse. There are exquisitely detailed performances by the Royal Ballet of Cambodia. There's Eiko and Koma's hypnotic Water, as danced outdoors at Lincoln Center in 2011. There are Carolina Ballet's productions of Cinderella and Peter and the Wolf, and interviews with the likes of Julie Kent, Ethan Stiefel and Wendy Whelan from the "Speaking of Dancing" project.
There's also this gem from 1897, one of the earliest dance films ever made. Titled Annabella, it features Annabelle Whitford Moore in a swirl of billowing fabric, performing a "serpentine dance" first popularized by pioneer Loïe Fuller. The videographer was none other than Thomas Edison, who hand-tinted the film so that Moore's dress appears to change color over the course of the dance—an artistic recreation of the dramatic colored lighting used by artists like Moore and Fuller.
It's a cycle familiar to many: First, a striking image of a lithe, impossibly fit dancer executing a gravity-defying développé catches your eye on Instagram. You pause your scrolling to marvel, over and over again, at her textbook physique.
Inevitably, you take a moment to consider your own body, in comparison. Doubt and negative self-talk first creep, and then flood, in. "I'll never look like that," the voice inside your head whispers. You continue scrolling, but the image has done its dirty work—a gnawing sensation has taken hold, continually reminding you that your own body is inferior, less-than, unworthy.
It's no stretch to say that social media has a huge effect on body image. For dancers—most of whom already have a laser-focus on their appearance—the images they see on Instagram can seem to exacerbate ever-present issues. "Social media is just another trigger," says Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with the dancers of Atlanta Ballet. "And dancers don't need another trigger." In the age of Photoshop and filters, how can dancers keep body dysmorphia at bay?
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.