How Dancer Lee Gumbs Turned His Love of Photography From a Hobby into a Business
A contemporary, jazz, and ballet dancer, Lee Gumbs is known for his six-year touring stint with Bad Boys of Ballet (and, of course, for being a Dance Spirit Cover Model Search finalist in 2008!). But Gumbs' photography has earned equal praise. He's amassed an impressive portfolio of subjects, shooting famous dancers like Ashley Everett, Allison Holker, Melinda Sullivan, and Sean Lew, to name a few.
An Artist in Training
Gumbs first began studying tap and acrobatics as a 7-year-old boy in the Virgin Islands. When his family moved to Florida, his mother went to a local studio to inquire about getting him a scholarship to keep training. The owner gave him the scholarship—under the condition that he take ballet. "I wasn't into ballet when I was little," he recalls. "I thought it was just for girls." But Gumbs soon found that he loved ballet and jazz. He went on to train at the Orlando Ballet School and Rolann's School of Dance.
Sean Lew (photo by Gumbs, courtesy Gumbs)
When Gumbs was 10, an elementary school art class assignment ignited a love of photography to match his passion for dance. A picture he took of a flower was selected for a showcase, and Gumbs asked his parents for a camera the following Christmas. "Of course, because I was in fifth grade, they got me a cheap camera, and I was so disappointed because I wanted a nice one," he laughs. At 16, he got his first professional SLR camera and started photographing his friends.
Lucy Vallely (photo by Gumbs, courtesy Gumbs)
Gumbs honed his chops as a dance photographer while on tour with Bad Boys of Ballet. "I didn't go to school for photography, so everything I do is self-taught," he says. "When I was on tour I'd walk around each city we performed in and shoot my castmates." Eventually, he began photographing models and actors, cast members from "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Dancing with the Stars," and dancers for Lady Gaga and Beyoncé.
Jade Chynoweth (photo by Gumbs, courtesy Gumbs)
While his style is heavily influenced by the high-fashion photography he sees in publications like Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, Gumbs' dance training informs his perspective, too. "I think being a dancer, you have to be so aware with your eyes—when you're onstage you have to feed off the movements of the other dancers," he says. "Dancers know what looks good and know what looks bad, and I think that really helps me in photography." Actress and commercial-dance darling Jade Chynoweth is one of many who have benefited from his talent. "He captures the perfect angles that accentuate your body and its muscularity," she says. "He mirrors his movements with yours to get the perfect shot."
A Balancing Act
Aria Terango (photo by Gumbs, courtesy Gumbs)
Gumbs didn't put down dance when he picked up the camera. While his photography business continues to thrive, his dancing continues to, too (most recently onstage at the Oscars). "Dance doesn't have to be your be-all and end-all," he advises. In fact, he says his dual passions have made him a better artist overall. "Dance and photography are both equally my main job," he says. "It's worth it to make time for all of your artistic outlets.
A version of this story appeared in the February 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Picture Perfect."
Last May, we told you about a special exhibition of the Mark Ryden artwork that sparked Alexei Ratmansky's sweet-treat of a ballet, Whipped Cream. Well, hold on to your tiaras, bunheads, because there's a brand-new exhibit featuring actual costumes from this megahit production. The Nutcracker's Land of Sweets has some serious competition!
Kyle Van Newkirk is a tap dancer you probably remember from the premiere season of NBC's World of Dance. In case you missed it, he is also one of Showstopper's incredible convention teachers. What makes Kyle stand apart from some of today's other incredible tappers? He isn't afraid to change what tap means to his audience and even himself. This modern view of tap dancing is important because it shows us that tap dancers are just as versatile and dynamic as dancers of any other genre. We sat down with Kyle to get his advice on bringing tap dancing into the 21st century.
Sure, dancers definitely have some unique identifying characteristics. (We're all obsessed with Center Stage? FACT.) But we're also subjected to all kinds of annoying, inaccurate stereotyping. Here are 10 dancer stereotypes that we never want to hear again.
They say there's no "I" in "team"—and nowhere is that truer than the world of college dance teams, where precision reigns, uniformity is key, and a single misstep from any given "I" can cost a group a championship trophy. So it's unsurprising that securing a spot on one of the best dance teams in the country is no easy feat.
Members of these highly athletic teams rehearse for hours every week—on top of academic classes and commitments—and perform at football and basketball games, annual concerts, and nationally televised competitions (hi, ESPN). And "no I" rule notwithstanding, each of these top teams is made up of highly trained, highly technical, highly hard-core individuals, who come together to create a ready-for-victory pack.
These six teams aren't one-off success stories—they're consistently strong, and earn the top spots at major competitions like UDA and NDA nearly every year. Up for the challenge? Here's what to know before you go to auditions.
Picture this: You've scored tickets to Ellen DeGeneres' hit show, "Ellen." The day has come, the show is as hysterical as ever, Ellen is debating the biggest hot-button issue since the blue/black or white/gold dress, "Laurel vs. Yanny" (side note: it's LAUREL, people), and tWitch is killing it over at the DJ booth, as always. Ellen decides it's the perfect time to single out an audience member and, lo and behold, that person is "SYTYCD" champ ( and December 2017 cover star!) Lex Ishimoto.
The Glorya Kaufman International Dance Center is the 54,000 square foot home of the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, one of the largest facilities dedicated to dance on a private university campus. Designed for their innovative new curriculum, that supports a range of dance styles, the school's staff designated Harlequin to provide wall-to-wall flooring for the large 3,500 square foot Performance Studio as well as five dance studios in their new state-of-the-art building.
If diamonds are a girl's best friend, it's safe to say that faux-diamond earrings are a dancer's best friend. A fixture onstage at just about every competition weekend, these blinged-out baubles are also the surest sign that recital season is upon us again. And what better way to get into the sparkly spirit than by drooling over these 5 diamonds in the rough? (Sorry not sorry!)
DancerPalooza, America's Largest Dance Festival, is moving to sunny SAN DIEGO, California from July 24-29, 2018.
Check out all of the NEW Intensives DancerPalooza has to offer this year!
You could say that a perk of dancing with Los Angeles Ballet is its proximity to Hollywood. It's no wonder, then, that when actor and comedian Kevin Hart was looking for someone to teach ballet lessons for his new "What the Fit" YouTube show, he reached out to the nearby company. The series follows Hart and his celebrity friends as they try different forms of exercise (such as sumo wrestling and goat yoga), with hilarious results. For his ballet episode, Hart brings along Hangover star Ken Jeong—and the dancers do their best to keep these madcap comedians under control.