The Northwoods Dance Project

Dance Photography by Mark Shermeister


The choreographer George Balanchine once famously said, “Ballet is woman.” That may or may not be true, but in either case I believe it to be an enormous understatement; ballet (and dance in general) is much more: It’s been described as a form of personal expression, art, ritual, a series of movements, a form of communication; there seems to be as many definitions of dance as there are dancers.

At any rate, it’s much more than 50% of the world’s population! One thing common to all experience of dance, however, is its fleeting quality: Unlike art forms such as painting and sculpture, as soon as the dance occurs, it’s gone: Poof. Unfortunately, dance has historically appeared then vanished for want of a way to preserve it.

Now we can use photography to capture and preserve intentionally chosen moments and send them off to future generations. If we carefully choose and protect these moments, we’ll showcase the unseen beauty and meaning in dance and highlight the unique beauty of each, preserving them for years.

This project is my endeavor to depict the dance, to negate its fleeting quality by converting the activity from the performing to the visual arts. By collaborating and creating images that showcase the dancer’s unique attributes (tangible and intangible,) their beauty and grace is preserved, rather than slipping quietly into the past, and is given to future generations as artifacts that outlive us.

In 2023 I founded the Northwoods Dance Project: an initiative with the goals of:

  • Raising awareness of the art forms of dance and dance-based imagery in the local area. (And eventually beyond)
  • Support and promote local performing artists.
  • Connect the dance community, arts organizations, libraries, and municipal organizations with photographers and artists.
  • Activate and engage the local performing artists and provide a boost to the visual arts (particularly photographers) locally.

The project comprised a four-part series of eight-week public exhibitions of 50 – 80 dance images, featuring dancers from the local area. The images were created using a unique form of collaboration, a creative mixture of concept, dancers, parents, costuming, lighting, dance technique, communication, photography, post-processing techniques, presentation, media, and ultimately, the audience.

November – December 2023