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Photographing the Dancer’s Art

Rose Eichenbaum spent her thirty-year career photographing dance, recording “hundreds of dancers of every style—from ballet, tap, jazz, and break-dancing to ballroom, postmodern, world dance, butoh, and the avant-garde—in dance studios, photo rental houses, and site-specific locations, in rehearsals and in performances,” on assignments for dance companies, magazines and books, she writes in the introduction to Inside the Dancer’s Art, a new book of her work published recently by Wesleyan University Press. Her images, which were recently on view at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, capture the nuances of form and gesture of dancers in motion. Pina Bausch, wearing a purple gown, throws back her arms and head. A dancer from American Repertory Dance Company seems to float over his partner. There are also portraits of choreographers and dancers at rest—Mikhail Baryshnikov poses outside a rustic studio at Jacob’s Pillow, and Bill T. Jones stands on a Harlem street. In the book, these images are accompanied by excerpts from interviews with subjects about what dance has meant to them.

Together, the book presents a survey of dance since the mid-1980s, documenting its changing styles and stars. As a dancer herself before she took up photography, Eichenbaum’s aim has always been “to search for meaning within the form,” she writes in the book. “This work is a record of my journey into the world of dance, and is dedicated to the dancers who I have had the honor to photograph and interview during the course of my exploration of one of humanity’s oldest and most impassioned forms of artistic expression.”

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