Dance history can sometimes be a hard sell, since part of what makes dance so thrilling is that it's all about being in the moment. But Joy-Marie Thompson, a junior dance major at SUNY Purchase College, has found a beautiful, compelling way to bring dance's past into the present: In a new exhibit called Interpretations, she reenacts classic photos of her African-American forerunners, from Katherine Dunham to Carmen de Lavallade to Desmond Richardson.

Katherine Dunham
(original image courtesy the Katherine Dunham Online Collection at the Library of Congress; Joy-Marie Thompson's interpretation photographed by Rachel Neville, with costume by Jill Thompson)

Her mother, Jill Thompson, helped with costume design and creation, and Thompson brought on gifted dance photographer Rachel Neville to capture the new images.

Arthur Mitchell
(original image by Anthony Crickman, 1957; Joy-Marie Thompson's interpretation photographed by Rachel Neville, with costume by Jill Thompson)

"All of the artists celebrated here created a unique and independent space for other black dancers," Thompson said. "Preparing Interpretations provided an opportunity to not only honor important black artists, but also to discover more about the richness, beauty and pride of the African-American dance history of our people."

Joan Myers Brown
(original image by Gaston Devigne; Joy-Marie Thompson's interpretation photographed by Rachel Neville, with costume by Jill Thompson)

Interpretations is currently on display at both the Performing Arts Center at Purchase College and the August Wilson Center in Pittsburgh, PA. You can also find the full collection of photos here.

Desmond Richardson
(original image by Jae Man Joo; Joy-Marie Thompson's interpretation photographed by Rachel Neville, with costume by Jill Thompson)

Brava, Joy-Marie!

Want more Dance Spirit?

Happy World Theater (or Theatre) Day, friends! In honor of this delightful holiday—which has been celebrated every March 27 since 1962—we rounded up 10 of the world's most beautiful dance venues. Obviously this is far from a comprehensive list, but it includes theaters both old and new from all over the globe. And it's perfect daydreaming fodder. Can't you just picture yourself flying across the stage at the Bolshoi, or dancing for the Queen at Covent Garden?

Palais Garnier, Paris, France

A post shared by Bimpe (@bimadeyemi13) on

Home of the Paris Opéra Ballet, this exquisite theater is also the setting for The Phantom of the Opera.

Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, United States

A post shared by Rachel Watkins (@rachelruns11) on

Designed by Frank Gehry, this ultramodern venue is where L.A. Dance Project frequently performs—and its gleaming exterior, as pretty much every dancer in L.A. has discovered, makes a fantastic background for dance pics.

Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, Russia

This regal home of the Bolshoi Ballet first opened in 1825, but it's looking extra beautiful these days after a complete renovation, which took six years and was completed in 2011.

Copenhagen Opera House, Copenhagen, Denmark

A post shared by DENEMEN LAZIM (@denemenlazim) on

One of the most expensive opera houses ever built—it cost more than $500 million—this sleek venue is located on the island of Holmen in central Copenhagen, and frequently hosts the Royal Danish Ballet.

Guangzhou Opera House, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China

A post shared by David Murphy (@murphahoy) on

Designed by Zaha Hadid, this futuristic venue hosts dance companies from all over the world.

La Scala, Milan, Italy

Home to La Scala Ballet, this glorious theater will turn 240 years old next year.

David H. Koch Theater, New York City, United States

A post shared by Tom Trayer (@ttrayer) on

George Balanchine helped design this venue, formerly known as the New York State Theater, so that it'd be perfect for New York City Ballet performances.

Metropolitan Opera House, New York City, United States

A post shared by @martina0312 on

Just across the plaza from the Koch Theater sits this massive venue, where American Ballet Theatre mounts its annual spring season.

Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia

One of the world's most famous buildings, this iconic structure is the Sydney home of The Australian Ballet.

Royal Opera House (Covent Garden), London, England

A post shared by Nils Moeller (@nilsonwheels) on

Home of The Royal Ballet, this elegant theater has hosted ballet performances since 1734.

It feels like the great dancers of the distant past are shrouded in mystery, right? Partly that's because we only get limited glimpses of them: tiny video clips, blurry photos. And those peeks are always in shadowy black and white, creating even more distance between us and the living, breathing people these stars once were.

That's why Russian artist Olga Shirina's colorization project is so brilliant. Shirina, known as Klimbim online, has colorized (added realistic color to) many archival images, including photos of World War II heroes and members of Russia's imperial Romanov family. They're all pretty cool. But her series of colorized dance photos? It's FANTASTIC. Because it makes not only the dancers, but also the high-drama stage environments they inhabited, vibrantly real.

Left, original photo of Diana Adams in Antony Tudor's Pillar of Fire (1942); right, Shirina's colorized version. WHOA.

When she can, Shirina consults original design sketches, so that her edits reflect the actual coloring of the dancers' costumes. Here, for example, is Leon Bakst's sketch for ballerina Tamara Karsavina's costume for The Blue God (1912):

Here's the B&W image of Karsavina in the finished costume:

And here's Shirina's colorized version:

How awesome is that?

Check out a couple more of our favorite colorizations below. You can see the full collection on Shirina's site. (And this site has created slide-bar versions comparing the original photos with the edited versions, which is fun.)

Anna Pavlova in Russian costume, 1911

Vaslav Nijinsky in Le Spectre de la Rose (1911, photo dated 1913)

Want more Dance Spirit?

It's no secret that we're as obsessed with pretty costumes as we are with the pretty dancers who wear them. There's just something so magical about following the life of a tutu, or going behind the scenes to see how costume shops take their creations from the page to the stage. Costumes also hold a special place in every dancer's heart.

Which is why, when we stumbled upon this Fashion magazine article, we did a little happy dance. Fashion followed National Ballet of Canada principal Greta Hodgkinson (who's celebrating her 25th year with NBoC and her 20th year as a principal in the company) into the wardrobe room—and had her round up her favorite costumes of all time. Which was no small feat, considering Hodgkinson has danced pretty much every principal role in NBoC's classical repertoire. NBD.

Watch the video below to see Hodgkinson talk about all of her favorites, and stay tuned for our January issue, where she shares her best advice for young performers in a "Letter to My Teenage Self."

Want more Dance Spirit?

About a month ago, we let you know that Jenna Dewan Tatum—dancer, movie star, dance-show producer, scarily talented lip-syncer and one half of the couple that embodies EVERY SINGLE ONE of our relationship #goals—was the new face of Danskin. And as if those words weren't enough to get us squee-level excited, the sneak-peek photos looked like this:

Oh heyyyyyy (photo by Monica May via Danskin)

Well, yesterday, the campaign officially launched, revealing even more gorgeous images and a behind-the-scenes video that's the perfect palate cleanser for those of us still trying to get this weird taste out of our mouths.

Tatum, looking fabulously Flashdance-y in the fall collection's leos and crop tops and leggings, notes in the vid that she grew up wearing Danskin. "When I got the call for this campaign, it was the fastest yes I've ever given!" she says. "This is like home to me."

Take a look at the video below, and visit Danskin's site to check out the fall campaign.

Want more Dance Spirit?


Want to Be on Our Cover?




Get Dance Spirit in your inbox