Photographer Jordan Matter is known for his spectacular dance photography. His books Dancers Among Us and Dancers After Dark are both best-selling celebrations of spontaneous dance. And now he’s back with a new book that spotlights talented young dancers across America.
Born to Dance is a look at the wonders of childhood through the boys and girls who have found their calling in dance. Matter was inspired to start the project by his young daughter, who threw in an arabesque while shoveling snow. This tiny, spontaneous act was so heartwarming that it set the photographer off on a new mission. Since 2014, he’s been photographing dancers as young as 5 years old all the way up to 18 years old, capturing the magic and mischief that it means to be a child.
“Kids still see the magic in life’s small moments. There’s no cynicism. To them, each day is still truly an adventure,” Matter tells My Modern Met. “They are so excited to participate in every single photo shoot, like it’s the Super Bowl. I hear stories about how they haven’t slept for weeks leading up to a shoot, that it’s all they can think about. When the day finally comes, they always want to push the limits and do mischievous things they’re not usually allowed to do.”
What stood out most to Matter is the discipline and focus of each dancer, no matter the age. As he explored their personalities and collaborated on the scenes about to be photographed, he assured them that there was no pressure and encouraged them to just have fun. This translates into the freedom and joy that unfolds across the book’s 256 pages. Matter manages to capture both the grace and athleticism of each child, while still reminding us of their youth.
Matter’s work is littered with dancers that are already well-known at a young age, such as YouTube and America’s Got Talent sensation Sofie Dossi. He recalls one photoshoot with the young star, who is known for her contortions, where fans caused such a stir, it almost got them shut down. Other dancers like Chloe Lukasiak and Nia Sioux of Dance Moms and Maesi Caes from World of Dance also appear in the book.
Another result of Born to Dance is Matter’s successful 10 Minute Photo Challenge videos. Initially a YouTube novice, his channel has grown to over 1.5 million subscribers in a little over a year. These behind the scenes videos, shot during Born to Dance photoshoots, are an exciting look at Matter’s dynamic work style. Throughout the book, QR codes send readers to the associated video, allowing them to see how the finished product was created.
Broken into nine chapters that demonstrate different phases of youth, like Play with Me and When I Grow Up, the book is able to tell the story of universal childhood while also showing a wide variety of dancers. Playing with expectations, a particularly powerful image shows a young boy playing baseball who is simultaneously striking a pose while at bat. For Matter, it was vital to show that dance—and the freedom to follow your passion—is something that every child deserves to explore, no matter their gender or body type.