Photographer Rose Eichenbaum Shares Inside the Dancer’s Art
Award-winning photographer Rose Eichenbaum shares with us her new coffee-table book, Inside the Dancer’s Art, highlighting some of the Valley stories behind the images.
- Rose Photographed ByMichael Becker
- Photographs CourtesyRose Eichenbaum
Encino resident Rose Eichenbaum is known as the preeminent photographer in dance. For more than three decades, she has photographed hundreds of dancers of every style—from ballet to break dancing to ballroom.
Rose has loved dance as long as she can remember and, in fact, originally wanted to be a professional dancer herself. But she married at 21 and soon had three kids. After a clerk at a photo developing shop told her she had a good eye, she took a six-month workshop, started shooting for Dance Magazine and before she knew it, had a full-fledged career.
However one aspect was unfulfilling. “It used to rip my heart out when people would throw away the magazines. I thought, ‘I need to create something that would stand the test of time.’” That “something” turned out to be a book. Her first, Masters of Movement, was published by Smithsonian Books in 2004. And now she is on number six. Her new book, Inside the Dancer’s Art (Wesleyan University Press), juxtaposes photos of well-known industry legends with emerging young artists. “Being a dancer myself has really been a great skill for all of this. Dancers feel like I am one of them. It is so gratifying. Being a dance photographer was really my true calling.”
Here in her own words, Rose highlights some of her favorite images of the local dancers she has captured with her lens—along with their stories.
Ashley Everett, known as “Beyoncé’s dance captain,” was one of the featured dancers in the music video Single Ladies, that won Music Video of the Year at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards; it has generated more than 400 million views. Ashley has also performed alongside Usher, Robin Thicke and Jennifer Lopez—among others. When I was choosing artists for my book, Ashley topped my list. I felt she would bring a powerful energy to the project—and she did.
A hop from her Valley Village apartment to my home photo studio in Encino, she arrived fully prepared for our shoot. With makeup and hair done and ready for a morning of dancing, all I needed to do was turn on the music. Ashley recreated moments from the Single Ladies video and then improvised with some moves that can only be described as soulful. This is one of my favorite images from that joyful morning.
This photograph of a young dancer stretching is among my very first dance images and my most personally meaningful. Taken in 1985 at the ballet studio where I trained, it represents the shift in my life from aspiring professional dancer to career photographer. I had dreamed of a performance career since I was a teenager, but I married young and before I knew it, I was the mother of three. Pursuing a performance career while taking care of my family proved more than I could handle. I had to accept that being on stage would not be in my future.
Then quite unexpectedly, while taking pictures of my children, I discovered a new passion—photography. It didn’t take me long to realize that I could combine these two unique art forms—dance and photography—and in order to get hired by choreographers, artistic directors and magazine editors, I knew I’d need to create a portfolio. This image of a dancer (whose name I never knew) was among the very first images to fill my black book. With dramatic lighting, it illustrates (or shows) a lone dancer preparing for class with determination and grit. It helped open doors to my photographic career.
Amanda Balen and Mark Kanemura
When Dance Magazine contacted me in 2012 to photograph Lady Gaga’s backup dancers, Amanda Balen and Mark Kanemura, I suggested we do it right here in the Valley. Not only did the dancers live in North Hollywood, I knew of a perfect location that would have the industrial look that the magazine’s art director was after. Our shoot took place inside my husband’s company, Business Machines Consultants. With a bit of imagination, we transformed its warehouse into a streamlined commercial photo studio.
Amanda and Mark, both extraordinarily well-trained commercial dancers whose credits include So You Think You Can Dance, America’s Got Talent, La La Land and live shows for Janet Jackson, Celine Dion and Carrie Underwood, pulled out a number of moves and jumps, giving me the opportunity to capture their amazing talents.
Dylan Gutierrez and Jeraldine Mendoza
I first photographed Dylan Gutierrez when his mother, Andrea Paris-Gutierrez, owner of Encino’s Los Angeles Ballet Academy, hired me to take pictures of her teenager. Watching him move before my lens, I knew immediately that he was destined for a successful dance career. Today Dylan is a principal with the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago.
When I began work on Inside the Dancer’s Art, I knew that I wanted to include Dylan. When he accepted my invitation to be photographed, he asked if his girlfriend and fellow Joffrey principal, Jeraldine Mendoza, could join us.
For our photo, I suggested we leave the dance studio and instead try to create something that might blend the elegant line of the dancer’s body with the beauty of nature. We drove over to the Balboa Nature Preserve just off Burbank Boulevard, where I composed this image of the two in a classic pose, situated on a wooden bridge over a running stream. By demonstrating their skills, these two talented young dancers enabled me to produce one of the most compelling photographs in the book.
The moment I laid eyes on dancer Natalie Willes, I knew I wanted to photograph her. Her exotic beauty and gentle spirit drew me to her like a magnet. Born in Hollywood, Natalie says that her mother, dance teacher and studio owner Karen Willes, took her straight from the hospital to her Carousel Dance Studio in Canoga Park. Natalie would learn to dance before she could walk.
Our first photo session took place on the beach in Malibu, where she performed for me along the shore. It was my first experience creating images under the spell of a muse. Natalie captivated me with her talent and technique and made me aware of the power of collaborative art making. A few years later, I reached out to her one more time, but this time we met in her mother’s dance studio in the Valley. Wearing a jazz shoe on one foot and a pointe shoe on the other, Natalie gracefully demonstrated her ability to communicate the beauty and artistry of dance—regardless of style. ν
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