In Celebration of Jack Mitchell
Clockwise from top left: Merce Cunningham, 1962; Agnes de Mille, 1980; Ruth St. Denis in White Jade, 1950.
In November, the dance world lost one of its most prolific photographers, Jack Mitchell (1925–2013), whose work helped chronicle an epoch in dance history. In a career spanning more than 40 years, Mitchell captured almost every major figure in the field, from ballet legends to downtown dancemakers, as well as tap dancers, b-boys and composers.
A longtime contributor to Dance Magazine, Mitchell’s work has filled our pages since the early 1950s. He photographed more than 160 covers; subjects included José Limón, George Balanchine, Merce Cunningham and Bob Fosse. And though he announced his retirement in 1996, he received a Dance Magazine Award in 2002 and remained on the magazine’s masthead until his death.
Mitchell also found great success outside of dance: His portraits for publications like The New York Times, Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair included John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Alfred Hitchcock and Meryl Streep. Today, the Thrasher-Horne Center for the Arts in Florida is home to some of Mitchell’s most iconic work, including the images on these pages.
Clockwise from top left: Martha Graham in Alcestis, 1962; Paul Taylor in Aureole, 1979; Mikhail Baryshnikov rehearsing Taylor’s Aureole, 1993.
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.