Last Sunday, I had an opportunity to photograph the Brighton Ballet Theater‘s folk dance performance. Late last year, I also photographed a series of the troupe’s performances of The Nutcracker. Simply covering the troupe would be a joy to me, since I find dance to be one of the purest art forms…
As I said recently to Sue Henderson:
I wish I could shoot a lot more performance art. Man or woman in motion. Dance and theater, both which I consider among the purist art forms, because–can you get a lot closer to primal beauty than a man or woman expressing himself or herself through the movement of his or her own body? Is there anything more amazing than the culmination of hours of practice and discipline, that razor separation between control, discipline and unfettered expression?
…but the Brooklyn-based troupe itself is a fascinating organization. The founders and many of the principal dancers (who double as teachers in the affiliated School of Russian Ballet) are from Russia and the Ukraine, where several studied at famed schools like the Bolshoi and Kirov.
Coming back for a second season is interesting. Last year, a lot of the younger dancers would mug for the camera (above), while a few of the older students would become camera shy and run away. Maybe it was because I did not arrive as early for the show as I normally would, but the dancers simply accepted me as part of the scenery this time, which is perfect, of course, for a photographer.
Famed dance photographer Barbara Morgan did not like to shoot performances, favoring studio sessions, which she felt allowed her to better capture the intentions of the choreographers. I wonder, however, if Morgan would have felt differently if she had had access to today’s digital equipment and its ability to give you quick feedback on a shoot. Photographing a dance performance is challenging. Given the low (available) light and quick movements of the dancers, you constantly fight to find a happy medium between opening the aperture wide (and having to grapple with the very shallow depth of field) and choosing a shutter speed fast enough to capture the action. (It might sound odd, but the little experience I have shooting basketball actually applies well to the world of dance.) Otherwise, you’re forced to capture the quieter moments in the performance (for instance, when a pose is held)–or to time the shutter release to capture the peak of a movement, which paradoxically can be among the stiller moments (below).