A Century of Dance (plus a giveaway!)

Illustrated with gorgeous historic and contemporary photographs of some of the greatest dancers and choreographers of the 20th century, is the perfect gift for the dancer or dance lover in your life.

“A Century of Dance” is available from The Postal Store. Click image for more info.

This unique 32-page softbound booklet includes seven collectible stamps:

  • Four Innovative Choreographers (Forever®) stamps issued in 2012, honoring Isadora Duncan, José Limón, Katherine Dunham, and Bob Fosse
  • Three stamps issued in 2004 honoring Alvin Ailey, George Balanchine, and Agnes de Mille

We have three copies of A Century of Dance to give away today. To enter all you have to do is send your name and address to uspsstamps [at] gmail [dot] com. Winners will be chosen at random. The deadline for entries is midnight EST, Wednesday, December 19. Good luck!


Anatomy of a Stamp: Bob Fosse (& a Contest!)

If you’re an artist, where do you find inspiration for a painting? And when the canvas is the size of a postage stamp, what special considerations must be made? For his work on the Innovative Choreographers (Forever®) stamps, renowned artist James McMullan turned to photographs depicting the choreographers performing their signature dances.

Aware of the inherent challenge of transposing the complex physicality of dance to the diminutive stamp format, McMullan opted to express the essence of each choreographer’s creation. He painted each choreographer’s characteristic gestures and movements so that at a mere glance we recognize Isadora Duncan’s poeticism, José Limón’s dynamism, and Katherine Dunham’s lyricism.

But Bob Fosse proved an elusive subject. Pictures of Fosse in performance are not as plentiful as photographs of the other three choreographers. Having captured so eloquently the gestural likenesses of Duncan, Limón, and Dunham, McMullan painted a figure in a pose reminiscent of Bob Fosse, which lead to a lot of discussion among researchers, consultants, the art director—Ethel Kessler—and the Postal Service. Was it a problem to show three of the choreographers in performance and not Fosse? Would the balance of the stamps be disrupted by the anomaly of a surrogate Fosse?

The consensus was: Fosse needed to be Fosse. Postal Service researchers went to work again, this time enlisting the support of the Fosse estate. Still, they could not seem to find the right photograph. Finally, after revisiting pictures that had been considered and dismissed and appealing to the choreographer’s estate for assistance with the search, the researchers found a picture that was quintessential Fosse—right down to the hat, cane, and tilt of the head in a gentle bow.

These four Innovative Choreographers helped make dance a truly exciting art in the 20th century. And for all you dance lovers, we have a contest that will test your choreographic knowledge. Are you ready?

Which famous dances are depicted on the stamps for José Limón and Katherine Dunham? 

One lucky winner will receive a copy of —a collectible 32-page, softbound booklet illustrated with historic and great dance-makers of the 20th century.

To enter, send your answers to uspsstamps [at] gmail [dot] com. The winner will be selected at random and notified by email. You have until 11:59 p.m. EDT on Friday, September 14, to submit your answers. Good luck!

José Limón: Modern Dance Pioneer

Modern dance and José Limón (1908–1972) grew up together. In the late 1920s, younger dancers in America were attempting to define a style in contrast to classical ballet. The revolution was in its early stages when Limón gave up his youthful plan to be a painter and became a dancer instead.

In an unfinished memoir, Limón later wrote about the differences between ballet and modern dance. For one thing, he noted, modern dance responded to sociopolitical realities, such as the Great Depression, in a way that ballet did not. Choreographic movement no longer needed to be pretty but could be more naturalistic in the service of truth.

And while ballet seemed to defy gravity and suggest that the body could be lighter than air, modern dance seemed more honest:

“The weight of the body should be recognized and exploited. Its muscular effort was beautiful and should be revealed. Elevation, soaring into the air, would in consequence have more drama, more meaning. It would become a triumph, a conquest.”

Writing and reading were important to Limón. Several of his choreographic works were inspired by literary sources. He used the words of Ecclesiastes in There Is a Time (1956), a dance suite visualizing the idea of “a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted.” The Emperor Jones (1956), for an all-male ensemble, was suggested by Eugene O’Neill’s play of the same title.

In other works, Limón drew on his Mexican heritage. Danzas Mexicanas, a suite of five solo dances representing character types from Mexican history—Indian, conquistador, revolutionary, and so on—was composed in 1939. La Malinche (1949) was named for the indigenous slave mistress of Hernando Cortez, the conquistador who brought Mexico under the control of the Spanish empire.

Limón emphasized the intellectual and spiritual in his work, in hopes that his vision would exalt humanity. For an essay in The Modern Dance: Seven Statements of Belief (1966), he wrote: “I try to compose works that are involved with man’s basic tragedy and the grandeur of his spirit.” Danza de la Muerte (Dance of Death, produced in 1937), expressed his sympathy for the anti-Fascist Republicans of the Spanish Civil War. In Poland in 1957, he was inspired to create Missa Brevis, a tribute to the strength of citizens ravaged by World War II.

Two late works, Orfeo and Carlota, both produced in 1972, were meditations on love and loss, the latter revisiting the Spanish conquest of Mexico. The Limón Dance Company has remained active since José Limón’s death that same year. Prominent companies throughout the world have added his dances to their repertoires.

José Limón is one of four dancers honored on the Innovative Choreographers stamps, which are available now online and in Post Offices nationwide. You can read more about Limón and many other dance pioneers in the brand new (and simply beautiful) book,

Innovative Choreographers First Day of Issue Ceremony a Winning Performance

Thank you to everyone who came out to the Innovative Choreographers (Forever®) stamps First Day of Issue ceremony on Saturday in Los Angeles, California! You helped make the event a huge success!

Held as part of the West Coast’s flagship National Dance Day Celebration in Los Angeles County’s Grand Park, the dedication drew a great crowd of dance and stamp enthusiasts. Dedicating the stamps were (from left to right) Kaye Lawrence Dunham, Katherine Dunham’s nephew; Marie-Christine Dunham Pratt, Katherine Dunham’s daughter; Nigel Lythgoe, Executive Producer and co-creator, So You Think You Can Dance; Ruth Goldway, Chairman, Postal Regulatory Commission; and Nagisa Manabe, Chief Marketing and Sales Officer, Executive Vice President, USPS.

The four influential choreographers honored on the stamps—Isadora Duncan, José Limón, Katherine Dunham, and Bob Fosse—changed the art of dance. Designed to look like posters advertising a performance, the stamp art captures the luminosity and mystery of a live dance performance.

We had a wonderful time in L.A. celebrating these dance legends! Our next event is the First Day of Issue ceremony, held on August 16 at the American Philatelic Society’s StampShow in Sacramento, California. Will you be joining us?

Satisfy Your Choreographic Cravings With “A Century of Dance”

Our toes are tingling in anticipation of the new Innovative Choreographers (Forever®) stamps, and we have just the thing to help feed your need for dance!

The 32-page book will help you discover 100 years worth of dance in America. Illustrated with images of historic and great dance-makers of the 20th century, this gorgeous booklet is perfect for dance lovers. It also includes a collectible set of Innovative Choreographers (Forever®) stamps, featuring Isadora Duncan, José Limón, Katherine Dunham, and Bob Fosse. This book is the perfect addition to any collection and makes a great gift, too!

The Innovative Choreographers stamps, as well as dance-related philatelic products, will be issued on July 28 in Los Angeles, California. But you can pre-order yours today!