Passion for Dance
Focused on the Prima Ballerina. Her lines and attitude are unique. The Maestro Pianist Igor Zapravdin of Vienna State Ballet leads Prima Ballerina Svetlana Zakharova in her choreography of the Dying Swan. The Bolshoi Star is building up the tension to a climax at ‘Gala des Étoiles‘. When the last note resonates in Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg, the Swan dies in front of an enchanted audience. Specially for Ballerina Anna Pavlova Le Cygne is created by Michail Fokine with music of Camille Saint Saëns. Anna Pavlova first performed the mesmerizing ballet in 1905 at Mariinsky theatre in St. Petersburg. The choreography became a symbol of the new Russian Ballet.
It is a fantastic challenge to photograph during dance performances. In this melting pot of art forms with live music and beautiful storytelling choreography, it is a delight to photograph. Amazing performances enlightened by numerous spotlights on stage. A dream for every photographer. The interface of these art forms can be smartly used by the photographer, such as the compositions of the dance piece. During the run-through it can be a good moment to take photographs. The dancers are motivated to work on beautiful pictures just before the première. There is no public who are easily disturbed by the annoying ‘shutter’ noise of your camera. Also you can find a good place where the dynamic lines of the dancer strengthens the composition of the image. But its advantages are too often turning intodisadvantages. Occasionally, the Ballet Stars are dancing in their workout clothes. Striking printed T-shirts are totally unsuitable to make the perfect picture you had in mind.
Prima Ballerina Natasha Kusch of Australian Ballet was one of the highlights during ‘Gala des Étoiles’ in her performance of the classic Giselle piece. As she explains: Giselle is one of my favourite ballet. Every time when I dance this ballet, I think so much about the character of Giselle. It is most important to take the audience with you in the story, that they feel her pain, her love, her broken heart’. In Luxembourg she performed a brilliant pas de deux with Royal Ballet dancer Ivan Putrov. Natasha says: ‘When you only dance a pas de deux taken from a large piece, it is much more difficult for me (mentally) to bring the right feeling, spirit of Giselle. The technical part in Giselle is always difficult too with a lot of control and jumping, but for me it is most important to bring the right feeling of that wonderful pas de deux. Then I am very very happy’. She continues: ‘Nowadays people learn ballets from Youtube, but best is to learn the choreography from the great teacher, who can explain every step, acting and all emotions. Over the years I had some incredible teachers who helped me to improve this role, to find my own Giselle. So I am very lucky to have those people in my life!’. The Prima Ballerina concludes: ‘What I like about Ballet is the music, movements, feelings, emotions…. ballet is my life’.
The beautifully lit stage often produces little image brightness, that the photographer is forced to shoot at 1200 ASA. So often a normality rather than the exception. As a photographer you have to invest heavily in expensive cameras that are not only silent, but also noise-free. For example in the past I photographed with a Canon EOS 5D II. An amazing sharp full frame professional camera. Since my first picture it made me smile, but the price of 2400 Euro (body only) was of course not so funny. One big negative aspect of this camera is the shutter noise. The crack is irritating, although it did not scared Bolshoi Star Svetlana Zakharova during her amazing performance at ‘Gala des Étoiles’. Since one year I have bought a new 5DS full frame professional camera with shutter noise reduction function. This camera delivers a stunning 50,6 Megapixel image and is incredible silent. But this beast will set you back for a staggering 3500 Euro. An important aspect of your image result is the lens. In almost every stage situation, the best lens choice will be a 200 mm telephoto lens. Because of the low light situation on stage the lens diaphragm is an important issue. A f/4 lens is recommended, but f/2,8 is much better.
Painting with Light.
The different colors of the light spots also has a great influence on the skin of the dancers. White light on stage is far too warm or has a yellow / orange color. Where your own eyes perceives this color palette effortlessly it demands unfortunately much processing time. Programs such as Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop can not be missed on your computer and can help you to create a fast workflow to correct the whole series on this ugly color. The latest versions of Photoshop and Lightroom now also have good tools to suppress the noise. But have you purchased an older version of Adobe in the past, it is certainly advisable to purchase a progamme such as Noise Ninja of Picture Code. This program is very user friendly and designed specifically to suppress noise and color artefacts. By selecting a multiple of 160 ASA as your camera settings, ‘experts’ say the aliasing effect gets better resulting in a prettier picture. Shooting at a big dance production broadcasted on TV can be a relief. For me I started dance photography at ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ on Dutch television which was an amazing experience. As a photographer you do not have to worry about your shutter noise, because the music sound level and atmosphere will override anything. ASA settings of 640 are achievable by the many spotlights pointed at the dancers. Also not to be taken lightly is the moment when you arrive home late after a terrific after party. This is the momentyou can start editing the photography to deliver the series to the customer early in the morning. Dance photography is special and technical. It is fun to do. To start dance photography you can focus on one of the many dance companies if they are looking for a photographer to report on their upcoming dance performance or event. But maybe it’s smart to start first at a dance school to learn the necessary skills to catch the moment of the dancer.
The Author wishes to thank the dancers and Director Georges Rischette of ‘Gala des Étoiles’.
Ballet Stars on photos:
Prima Ballerina Ketevan Papava, Prima Ballerina Liudmila Konovalova, Prima Ballerina Iana Salenko, Principal dancers Lucia Lacarra and Marlon Dino, Prima Ballerina Svetlana Zakharova, Principal dancers Lucia Lacarra and Marlon Dino, Dancer and Choreographer Eno Peçi, Principal dancers Alice Renavand and Benjamin Pech, Principal dancers Liudmila Konovalova and Matt Golding, Prima Ballerina Natasha Kush and Ivan Putrov
All photography by Gerard Boymans. Interview with Natasha Kusch.
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