acb dance & ballet next: a moment in dance history

6:00pm, July 2nd, 2012. I’m sitting in studio 3 at City Center, watching Alison Cook Beatty teach Michele Wiles her dance, TINTINNABULI. It’s the first time they’ve worked together and it’s amazing to watch. I’ve only been here for forty-five minutes and have taken 360 pictures. I’ve shot the dance twice before, performed by Alison, so I know the feel of the piece. It’s so different on Michele as a pointe piece. The dance suits Michele’s emotional head space so well. She’s taking it farther than Alison could, I think because Alison has allowed Michele to build on what she has done before.

I have watched Alison work with her ACB Dance company members several times and the energy in those rehearsals is great. Everything is up and positive. So many smiles. So much laughter. I wonder how a dance gets made with all that laughter but somehow it does get done. I think the happiness in the room wills them to learn the choreography. There is no fear. Without fear anything can be accomplished.

It’s so different watching this rehearsal of Alison with Michele. There’s still laughter and silly noises but the general tone of the rehearsal is much more serious than when Alison works with her company. It feels so important. I don’t know if it’s just me thinking this is a real moment in dance history or if the two of them have already bonded so closely, a new more intense version of Alison’s dance is happening before my eyes.


I’ve written many stories in the past year but it’s always been an essay on a past event...a shoot earlier that day or about an experience from some time ago. This is the first time I’ve written while watching the event unfold before my eyes.

It’s 6:30pm and I’ve now shot 500 photographs of the rehearsal. The teaching of the TINTINNABULI is progressing just as fast. Alison is adapting the movement from a barefoot dance to the pointe piece it’s becoming. Some of the steps translate so easily and others are immensely difficult, but so beautiful as Michele’s body accepts the new choreography. It’s interesting, watching the two bodies work together. Alison’s physique is that of a muscular Paul Taylor dancer. Michele is pure ballerina. As they rehearse together the dance evolves, combining the decades of physical knowledge imbedded in both dancers’ bodies. In my 32 years as a dance photographer, I’ve never been part of a process like this and I’m honored to be a guest in the dance studio.

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