Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Dance Across the USA
Jonathan Givens

Eps Publishing
December 2017/ ISBN 978-0692953709

Reviewed by Leslie C. Halpern


What could be more stunning than watching a troupe of dancers perform on professional stages with dramatic artificial lighting and hand-painted backdrops? Why the real thing, of course. Entertainment photographer Jonathan Givens visited all 50 states (for a total of 56 locations) photographing dancers in natural settings unique to each area for his new book of photographs, Dance Across the USA.

More than 3,000 dancers applied to participate in the project, but only 163 (ranging in age from 5 to 61) were chosen. The vast majority of the selected dancers are white females under the age of 21, although a handful of male dancers, older women, and ethnicities appear in some of the pictures. Costumes ranged from skimpy leotards to lovely diaphanous skirts and tops. Settings include famous waterways, state parks, and iconic locations that are not typically associated with dance, such as Grand Central Station in New York.

Shot over 90 consecutive days, the photographs feature high-flying leaps into the air, graceful static poses, and everything in-between. Givens provides daily notes on challenges he faced in each setting – challenges that include problems with weather, spider webs, alligators, and other natural elements. He claims that all the photographs are real with no digital compositing to enhance the pictures and no trampolines or wires to elevate the dancers’ jumps. His only “tricks” were to shoot when the natural lighting was most dramatic, scout exciting locations, find perfect angles from which to shoot, and encourage the dancers to express themselves without inhibition.

The result is a full-color, 306-page tribute to the beauty of America and its dancers. Equipped with only his trusted van (nicknamed Mighty Buford) and his Canon cameras and flashes, the author-photographer covered more than 22,000 miles on this exhausting journey. Surely many of the gorgeous photographs will inspire adults to plan road trips and youngsters to sign up for dance classes. Perhaps the only way to improve this beautiful softcover coffee table book would be to include even more diversity – more dancers over age 21, more men, more ethnicities, and more delicately draped costumes.

Reviewed 2018