Three very different pictures feature in the Winter Group Show at Linden Hall Studio in Deal. Choosing pictures to submit was a difficult one, from an archive of thousands. The criteria was that the images had to be accessible to an audience many of whom may have little experience of dance. So after much deliberation I came down to these, each of which I believe work for different reasons. So I thought it might be useful, if only for me, to explain why these were chosen.
Akram Khan Dance Company
Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London, 2014
This picture is such a contrast to the other two and the most difficult to analyse, partly I suppose because so much of its success comes from the dancers. The Khan Company are one of surprisingly few that really perform at press calls. It’s to do with their focus and emotion to a relatively empty theatre. Except to a bunch of people (?) carrying cameras.
On a compositional level it works because of the closure created by the two outside dancers, and the framing of the centre dancer by the two others. The white dust softens the line of light on the ground. (Not really a ‘line’ but formed by the flattening of the floor lighting by the angle of view – a common trick and great favourite). Emotionally it sets up questions around ‘what is going on?’ There were of course images either side of this, any one of which would have been ok, but this one remains special.
This photographic bringing together of dancers, costumes, lighting, performance, and of course my own contribution, happens very rarely and is precious.
Dutch National Ballet
Hans van Manen
Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London, 2011
This pic of Grosse Fuge is unusual in that it is not actually a picture of the dance itself, but of the technical rehearsal that preceded the run. Here the stage manager, technical director and dancers are setting the space.
The image depends for its success primarily because it is a classical ‘rule of thirds’ composition, which places the line (light) one third up in the frame on the horizontal with the dancers one third in on the vertical; emotionally on the repose of the dancers; and visually on the almost monochromatic colour.
A cheeky shot really, but too good to miss. I was just doing a technical check, but realised it was unusual. I did however attempt a repeat when the piece was run, but it simply didn’t work, I think because the focus of the dancers was more direct, confrontational, and for me this changed the dynamic of the still.
Merce Cunningham Company
Choreographer: Merce Cunningham
Barbican Theatre, London, 2011
This is a poignant image in that it is of the last tour of this company that was formed by Cunningham in 1953, and was a two-year tribute to the choreographer following his death in 2009.
The humour of course sets it apart, but compositionally it demonstrates an interesting dilemma for the dance photographer. Dance ordinarily consists of dynamics through time in a three dimensional space, whilst photography is two-dimensional and a fractional element of time. As such the photographer uses composition to generate dynamics, but more particularly depends upon the viewer to provide the dynamics through their experience of how our world works. Gravity ensures that dancers do not simply hang about in the air, although with some dancers one does wonder.