Marcus Alford is in Jackson teaching and training dance students during the USA International Ballet Competition. But the former student football trainer who introduced dance stretches to Coach Bear Bryant’s football team is much more than that. This week, Mississippi Today photographer Eric Shelton spent time with the graceful instructor and the dancers as these athletes worked on their craft.

A student dancer warms up before training with Alford. Credit: Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/ Report for America
Student dancers review ballet techniques after receiving instructions from Alford. Credit: Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/ Report for America
Student dancers prepare for their next class after training with Alford. Credit: Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/ Report for America
A student dancer stretches during a training session with Alford. Credit: Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/ Report for America
Student dancers receive instructions from Alford. Credit: Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/ Report for America
A student looks in the mirror as she trains with Alford, right. Credit: Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/ Report for America
Alford, a former student football trainer for the University of Alabama, sought out dance in order to help the football team prevent injuries but what he found is a career that has taken him around the globe. Credit: Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/ Report for America

Eric J. Shelton is a 2018 corps member in Report for America, and joined the team as our first photojournalist. A native of Columbia, Miss., Eric earned his bachelor’s in photojournalism from the University of Southern Mississippi. He was a multimedia journalist for Abilene Reporter-News, chief photographer for the Hattiesburg American and photo editor for the Killeen Daily Herald before joining our team June 2018.