This Student Reenacted Classic Photos of African-American Dancers, and the Results Are Stunning

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!

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