To Preserve the Work and Legacy of Nan Melville

To Preserve the Work and Legacy of Nan Melville image




Top photo - Improvisation class, Havana, Cuba, 1990 - imaginary invasion of a ship by pirates. Photo by Nan Melville. Category winner (Dance Classes) in the Alicia Alonso International Dance Photography Contest, 2021.

Nan Melville, 72, Whose Photography Captured Dance in Many Forms, Dies

Over a long career, her pictures, whether of famed dance troupes or experimental works, reflected what one admirer called “her love affair with dance.”

Nan Melville, Festival Internacional de Ballet de La Habana, 1990. Photographer unknown.
Nan Melville. Photo by Jeni Dahmus Farah.

Nan Melville, died on March 18, 2022. Friends and colleagues are collaborating to secure her legacy by donating her extraordinary archive to the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, where it will be accessible to the public, to support and inspire writers, dancers, and visual artists for years to come.

Nan documented the world of dance, theater, and music. She photographed and filmed in New York City and abroad, on assignment, for Juilliard, Lincoln Center, American Ballet Theater, Alvin Ailey, The Royal Ballet, Dance Magazine, The New York Times and other companies, capturing illustrious figures of dance, from Mikhail Baryshnikov to Savion Glover as well as lesser known figures.

Nan travelled extensively. Her visits to the village of Nrityagram in India led to her documentary, Nrityagram: For the Love of Dance, which won numerous international awards.

Nan was especially drawn to Cuba and its unique role in the world of ballet.

“Cuban ballet has a special kind of energy, a passion for the art form; temperament from Moorish roots, flexibility and rhythm from the Afro-Caribbean heritage and the ability to absorb dance styles from English, French and Russian traditions. All come together to make Cuban ballet unique. The passion to jump higher, spin faster, float on air, leads them to a prowess that is inspirational.”

In 1990 Nan filmed the biannual Festival Internacional de la Habana and the Ballet Nacional de Cuba for Dance Magazine. She made five subsequent trips to Cuba. At the time of her death Nan was working on a film, Fire Under Our Feet, about the festival:

"I have long wanted to do a documentary about the spirit of the dance there, and to bring attention to dancers in Cuba... The intention is to donate a percentage of any profit realized to the various dance institutions there."

We hope to raise enough money to preserve Nan’s archive and, in collaboration with the Center for Cuban Studies in New York, to fulfill her mission to support Cuban dance, including a program working with dancers who have Down’s syndrome and autism.

Donors who give $100 or more can get a copy of Nrityagram: For the Love of Dance for the cost of postage, by sending an email to

Photos by Nan Melville (left to right) - Carlos Acosta, Ballet Nacional de Cuba, 1990 - Alicia Alonso in Swan Lake, Ballet Nacional de Cuba, ca. 1990 - Vladimir Malakhov in David Parsons’ Caught, NY City Center, 1998

Link to Obituary: The New York Times (

For general donations to the Center for Cuban Studies, please visit our donation page here.