Current Exhibition

Portrait of Marla Phelan
I met Marla while I was photographing the Gibney Dance Company where she performs and creates as an Artistic Associate. I was immediately impressed by the strength, sensitivity and complexity of her artistic sensibility – and was delighted when she agreed to work with me on this portrait series.

Marla grew up in South Florida, and when I asked her about what her path to becoming a professional dancer, she told me that dance had been her lodestone from a very early age – allowing her to overcome her youthful shyness to be able to express herself freely, without the need for explicit verbal or social communication. That guiding star, combined with talent and determination, led her to enroll in the New World School of the Arts in Miami where she learned to become an artist, and fell in love with Martha Graham and her dance technique.

She enrolled at Juilliard and, somewhat unconventionally, was drawn to the freedom of expression of theatre studies, which she explored in parallel with her dance major – and it was at Juilliard, as she described it to me, that “she learned how to learn”, while she continued to broaden out her dance training technically.

That mix of drama and dance has been a very consistent and vital constant in her professional career over the past 10 years.

Marla’s professional career began dancing for Azure Barton’s company, where she worked for 5 years, before becoming part of the original cast for Maxine Doyle’s extraordinary Sleep No More in New York, and then Brussels and London. In London she joined Hofesh Shechter’s company, before returning to Maxine for The Drowned Man, back to New York to dance on Broadway in Fiddler on the Roof – choreographed by Hofesh – and from Broadway to the Shed’s presentation of Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise. A fantastic and varied range of work and experiences!

 

At Gibney Marla now has the opportunity to express her own artistic voice directly through her own choreography, while she also collaborates with the other Artistic Associates at the company in developing their original work.

Exploring and revealing the beauty and complexity of Marla’s personal and artistic journey was my intent in this portrait series.

She is dynamic, dramatic, and physical.

Strong but sensitive, and even vulnerable.

Confident and reflective.

And with emotions that run deep – with joy and pain.

While through all of the images – in movement, repose or reflection – she shines brightly and with compassion, inside and out.

Other Work

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