Dance has never gotten top billing on American postage stamps. You’d think maybe George Balanchine—arguably to 20th-century dance what Picasso was to the visual arts—deserved a first-class-mail commemorative this year, on the 100th anniversary of his birth. Instead, he shares the honor with Martha Graham, Agnes de Mille, and Alvin Ailey, who collectively represent modern dance, Broadway, and the contribution of African Americans to our native dance scene.
Each worthy—appearing on one in four stamps on a sheet of 20—gets a head shot coupled with an ostensibly typical image from his or her choreography. The graphics could be a helluva lot better. A haunting portrait of Mr. B by Tanaquil LeClercq is diminished by a feeble reference to Serenade. Graham fares best, thanks to Barbara Morgan’s stunning image of her in Letter to the World—all gnarled hands and swirling skirt, her face a handsome mask, her torso pitched parallel to the floor. Meanwhile, up there in choreographers’ heaven—you have to be dead to get on a stamp in this country—Jerry Robbins must be seething.