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Waiting in the Wings photography book addresses mental health in the Pittsburgh dance scene | Dance | Pittsburgh

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Photo: Courtesy of Anita Buzzy Prentiss

Chandler Bingham in Waiting in the Wings – Pittsburgh Dancers Live Through the Pandemic

Pointing out that artists and performers have been particularly hard hit during the pandemic seems redundant at this point, but reiterating it does little to help those recovering from the effects of the past two years. A new photography book will aim to help Pittsburgh dancers bounce back and raise awareness of the need for mental health treatment on stage.

Waiting in the Wings – Pittsburgh Dancers Live Through the Pandemic features 30 dancers from eight Pittsburgh dance companies. The dancers represented represent Attack Theatre, Confluence Ballet Co., NACHMO/The Pittsburgh Dance Collective, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Shana Simmons Dance, slowdanger, STAYCEE PEARL dance project & Soy Sos, and Texture Contemporary Ballet.

The project is a collaboration between Anita Buzzy Prentiss of Buzzy Photography and former dancer Kathleen McGuire Gaines, who founded and runs Minding the Gap, described as a “social good enterprise that seeks to see mental health taken with equal seriousness than physical health in dance”. Culture.”

According to a press release, the images of wait in the wings include quotes from the dancers about “the challenges they faced and what they learned about dancing during the pandemic.”

“These photos that I was so honored to create with the dancers while off stage during the pandemic show them as the confident, strong and graceful people that they are,” says Prentiss. “Staying true to what they love during this difficult time has inspired me so much and this book pays tribute to them.”

Click to enlarge Jessica McCann (left) and Yoshiaki Nakano (right) in Waiting in the Wings – Pittsburgh Dancers Experiencing the Pandemic - PHOTOS: COURTESY OF ANITA BUZZY PRENTISS

Photos: Courtesy of Anita Buzzy Prentiss

Jessica McCann (left) and Yoshiaki Nakano (right) in Waiting in the Wings – Pittsburgh Dancers Live Through the Pandemic

The project started two years ago when Prentiss and Gaines, who both live in Swisshelm Park, started taking frequent walks together during the 2020 shutdown. During the walks they started discussing how which they could support dancers who have been unable to work after the spread of performances canceled by COVID-19 and halls closed.

The two envisioned a book that would showcase “the beauty and diversity of Pittsburgh dancers and support their mental health.”

“The importance of mental health has never been clearer than it is now,” says Gaines. “Dancers face incredible mental challenges every day, often with little or no mental health resources, but the impact of the pandemic has been staggering. It warms my heart that Anita has chosen to accompany the dancers in this way.

The Minding the Gap website provides links to various research and studies citing the types of mental health issues faced by professional and aspiring dancers. Reports from the National Institutes of Health, the American Psychiatric Association and others theorize that the pressure of jobs in the highly competitive world of dance can lead to eating disorders, depression and anxiety, which could all be exacerbated by the additional crisis. of the pandemic.

In a November 2020 survey of 78 Point Park University dance students, Mind the Gap found that 48% had “high levels of anxiety” and that ballet dancers were more likely to have poor mental health than their peers studying jazz or modern dance.

The book is now available for purchase on the Buzzy Photography website, and a portion of the proceeds will support Minding the Gap’s mental health programming for dancers. A book launch party will be held on Saturday, April 16 at the Attack Theater, where guests can meet the photographer and mingle with the featured dancers.


Waiting in the Wings book launch party. 4 to 6 p.m., Saturday, April 16. Attack Theater Studios. 212 45th Street, Lawrenceville. Free. Search “Waiting in the Wings Book Launch Party” on Facebook