by Rena Godfrey appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Lifestyles Magazine.
‘This is what I know…I’m a work in progress,” writes veteran ballet and jazz dancer, Marjorie Goodson, in the foreword of MG, an ambitious collection of over 150 riveting photographic essays, beautifully formatted in a sleek, oversized hardcover art book.
Provocative, gritty and sensual, Goodson is photographed striking elaborate theatrical poses in the midst of dance, on location in Southern California (the dunes at Pismo and Zuma Beach, The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts). Whether she is captured dancing en pointe wearing only a black tutu and matching bralette, grasping at a cement wall with her muscular outstretched arms, wrapped in a scarlet red corset or photographed entirely in the nude, her elegant form, covered in multicolored brush strokes, like a canvas, Goodson’s sinewy body looks powerful, exposing both her sculpted calves and undeniable fierceness of spirit.
Marjorie GoodsonIn front of the camera, Goodson presents as an accomplished professional dancer. She has been training for many years since she was a little girl living in New York City with her mother, Virginia McDavid- a former Miss Alabama 1953- and father, television producer Mark Goodson who is responsible for Family Feud, The Price Is Right, Beat the Clock. Although Goodson did not end up landing a career in dance, she has always remained passionate and committed to the art form.
Still getting used to becoming an empty nester – her daughter Hannah, spends the school year attending college – Goodson has thrown herself back into the world of dance. For most her life took on the role as cheerleader for her friends and their causes; now at the age of fifty-four, Goodson has decided to place herself front and center.
From her home in Los Angeles, she talks about her deep affection for her father, her love of dance and her three-year collaborative journey to complete MG alongside international fashion photographer, Andreaa Radutoiu, and celebrity hair and make-up artist Torsten Witte (La La Land, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) to create MG . “It is a dream come true,” says Goodson.
Goodson, who describes herself as a “girly girl,” fell in love with dancing when she was just six years old and cannot recall a time when she wasn’t doing it. She officially started training at the School of American Ballet at the age of eight, and regularly went to the ballet went to the ballet regularly with her father. “I loved the beauty of these graceful creatures lifting their legs and floating across the stage,” she reminisces. And I thought, I wanted to do that. There was nothing else that I wanted to do.”
When she saw the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre for the first time she was completely blown away and becoming captivated with the edginess of contemporary ballet with its strong and hard lines compared to the more ethereal ballets.“ The muscles, the artistry and the shape- that was burned in my mind. I have always aspired to attain this kind of physical state,” she says.
Much of the edgy imagery in MG – published by Rosetta Books – from the movements to the backdrops, resembles a film noir movie set. Goodson and her team chose specific locations to bring to life the contemporary theme- downtown LA was chosen for its gritty setting whereas the beaches provided a more textured scene, having the wind, sand and water as key elements in the photos.
“We needed to harness the energy of me whipping my head or catching me just as I’d go into a pose; it was all very instinctual.”
Her great affinity for the arts came naturally – she’s been painting since her early twenties growing up in New York City, she was immersed in the world of art. Art was never shoved down my throat,” she assures. It was just there to be enjoyed, “ she says. “Without even knowing it you just take to it, and it becomes who you are.”
Her father was also an avid art collector. Goodson remembers being surrounded by beautiful pictures at home-paintings by Picasso, Moreau, Magritte, and Leger adorned their walls. She describes her father as a very “colorful” man who had an “eclectic sense.” Their home was decorated in vivid paint hues- there was an olive green den, a bright-blue living room, and a brilliant-red dining room. “Somehow it all worked together,” Goodson adds. “It was a wonderfully rich smorgasbord of color and art, and it was just magnificent.”
The entertainment business wasn’t a huge presence in the Goodson household, but there were parties and influential people who came around like CBS anchorman and journalist, Walter Cronkite and Broadway songwriter, Sammy Cahn. Goodson remembers being star struck at age ten, when the famous and dashingly handsome actor, Kirk Douglas- a guest at her father’s party-said hello to her before she was ushered off to bed. She also fondly recalls chatting around the dinner table about the latest game show in creation. Although Goodson enjoyed helping out, she was never really interested in joining her father’s company, preferring to pursue her dream of becoming a professional dancer.
After attending college in Alabama, Goodson moved to the West Coast to study dance and acting in Los Angeles. On a whim, the directors of Classic Concentration, another game show produced by Mark Goodson and hosted by Alex Trebek, asked Goodson if she would fill in as a model because the previous one was fired. She hesitantly agreed, but as it turned out, her presence garnered rave reviews from the networks. “ I am kind of goofy and funny,” Goodson says laughing, “So it worked.”
Goodson knew that she wasn’t a typical product model and decided to have fun on set with her new role, even once appearing in full scuba gear to show off some prize pearls. She ended up working there for several years setting aside her plans to become a serious dancer. She married, had a family, and continued to dance for fun while taking on an active role role helping others with their causes, including her friend, Melissa Barak, former dancer for New York City Ballet, who, , was tried to get her own ballet company in Los Angeles off the ground in 2013.
Around the same time, Goodson’s daughter went off to college, and to help fill the void, Goodson threw herself back into the world of ballet and took many classes.
“Up until this point in my life I had always been a facilitator for others, happy to be on the sidelines and I felt that was my place in life and it was enough for me,” she says. “Then one day, a friend came up to me and asked, ‘Marjorie, when is it going to be your turn?’ ”
Goodson was floored. It was a pivotal moment in her life. “ It occurred to me that I could create my own art and be the leading lady in my own life.” She began to figure out her next move, and the idea of creating a book- what eventually took the form of MG– came to her. She has never looked back.
In preparation for each shoot, Goodson would follow a strict diet high in protein and low in carbs. “ I had to bring that ‘wow’ factor to the project, particularly as an older woman. And the physicality of putting my body in this young physical state for me was a total turn on.”
Gracious and grateful for the support she has received from friends and colleagues over the years, she dedicates MG to her daughter, who has echoed her mother’s love of the arts and has become singer, songwriter. Goodson “couldn’t be more proud ” of her daughter’s strength and tenacity.
“I always say, ‘Make friends with your fears and self-doubt because they are always going to be in your back pocket.’” These are the things that push Marjorie Goodson forward. At the middle of her life, she has finally arrived.