“For me, the dance is the subject, and the dancer is the instrument of the art form.” A photographer and former dancer, Rose Eichenbaum wants the world to experience dance in the most authentic way possible: through the dancers themselves. Ms. Eichenbaum’s fifth and most recent book, Inside the Dancer’s Art (Wesleyan University Press, 2017), lives and breathes with her subjects and their words.
“I wanted viewers and readers and lovers of dance to have an intimate experience with this art form that they might not ever have otherwise,” she told The Boston Dance Journal, “particularly if they haven’t been a dancer or if they didn’t achieve that lofty dream of being on the stage.”
For her, this was the case. After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in dance from the University of California, Los Angeles, Ms. Eichenbaum got married and started a family. This, she said, “thwarted” her dance career. But after picking up a camera to photograph her children over 30 years ago, she fell in love with photography. “It didn't take me long to realize that I could combine my two passions: dance and photography,” she says. “So, I set out to establish a career as a ‘dance photographer.’”
Ms. Eichenbaum has turned into an artistic investigator of sorts—her books discover and explain the inner workings of artistic minds, all in order to better understand the dancer. Having explored the minds of choreographers, dancers, actors and directors, Ms. Eichenbaum feels she understands as much as she possibly can about dance.
Inspiration for Inside the Dancer’s Art hit Ms. Eichenbaum as searched through her photos for an old print. Filing through the pictures of dancers she had collected over the years, Ms. Eichenbaum realized she had something special. She hired a graphic designer to help strategically order the photos and contacted the photographed subjects whom she had not previously collected quotes from. She wanted to know what were they thinking, what are their goals, and did they achieve their dreams?
The result is a 241-page book of photos paired with the subjects’ quotes, creating a diverse and dynamic case study of dancers in moments of pure artistry. Ms. Eichenbaum’s ability to capture dancers’ authenticity is rare and true. She spotlights legends across generations, from Mikhail Baryshnikov and Liza Minelli to Natalia Osipova and Tiller Peck, as well as companies like Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Company and the L.A. Dance Project.
“With gesture, movement, and energy you can say so much, express your deepest emotions…” says Ivan Putrov of the Royal Ballet of London. His featured quote best summarizes Ms. Eichenbaum’s work. She expresses this emotion by inserting herself into the moment for an immersive experience. By dancing through their bodies as a photographer, she says, she discovered how to capture a beautiful moment. “The moments that are selected in this book are really about my trying to experience what they [the dancers] are feeling physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually,” she says.
“It’s not about the medium, per se, it’s about the intention behind the medium,” she says, noting that replacing the word “dance” with “life” throughout the book reveals universal experiences. “Everybody wants to have a voice. Everybody wants to be seen and felt and recognized, that they are here, that they’re present, that they have some value. I think that is a pervasive theme that runs through the book regardless of the style of dance… we all are the same… I think we all want the same thing, and art is how we express those feelings and emotions.”