Klaus Wegele on his photographic project Dancing at Historic Sites of Kiev:
The idea of this project I got last year – 2016 – when I started to learn Russian. I got in contact with the ballet art director of the National Opera of Ukraine, Kiev – Aniko Rekhviashvili – and she established the first contacts into the ballet troupe of the National Opera. She used for translation purposes a ballerina who studied in Germany – Katherina Didenko – who also was my first ballet model ever in Kiev. We first did some shots in ‘The Taras Shevchenko Ukrainian National Opera House’ in Kiev and then some on location, which led finally to the start of my project.
Kateryna Didenko in the Opera House
As I started just 3 years ago with ballet photography I recognized that it is quite difficult to find ballet dancers who are willing to cooperate. I realized that a lot of ballet dancers are reluctant or shy in respect of taking photos with an unknown, not (in the ballet world) respected photographer, which made it really difficult for me to get into the Ukrainian ballet world where I had no connections to.
With Kateryna I found a helpful and always friendly person – and an incredible dancer – who established for me the contacts to the Ukrainian classical ballet world. As Kateryna is also a very beautiful dancer and always in a good mood I enjoyed every shooting with her, from photo studio to shootings in the opera house to finally a shooting in front of the St. Sofiyskaya cathedral.
For this shooting I also wanted to go onto the premises of Sofiyskaya but as at many private locations I did not get the permission to take photos. Not from Sofiyskaya nor on any orthodox site, but I guess it would not be any different in any other religion and I always respect these decisions, which probably leads to a miss, as previously some photographers just didn’t care and got well respected and well paid photos, but I DO respect.
I like to work with professionals like Kateryna, but also with students like Viktoria Melnichuck which did cool jumps at the same location where I took photos of Kateryna.
For a lot of historical places Kiev is good to walk by foot which is really nice. Some places are just a 180 degree turn and you will find a total different historical site.
So far I had only contact to the National Opera ballet troupe, but I remembered that there was a choreographer doing very cool contemporary choreographies at the Lviv young choreographer competition, and she was from Kiev – Anna Gerus. It took some time until Anna found time in her busy schedule but finally we found a date.
Anna Gerus is not only a choreographer but she is also a principal dancer of the KYIV MODERN- BALLET theatre. At the same place – Sofiyskaya Square – where I took with Kateryna and Viktoria the photos I took with Anna the photos with the St. Michaels golden doomed monastery in the background just with a 180 degrees turn. As these shots had been outside of the private premises it has not been a problem to take these photos.
From Sofiyskaya Square you just need to go down the Volodymryrski Passage and you will hit the golden doomed monastery of St. Michael. The first German ballerina who got an engagement at the National Opera of Ukraine – Fabienne Hott – spent an afternoon with Dance Movements Project. She did a duet directly in front of the monastery with Nikita Suchorukov who was at that time soloist at the National Opera and is now etoile.
With Nikita I did before the duet with Fabienne a shooting at the Maidan or Independence Square just down the hill from St.Michaelis.
And with Fabienne I was doing then directly afterwards some photos directly at the Taras Shevchenko Opera House.
This I did also with Viktoria in March 2017.
A few steps further down the road the next location appears infront of Taras Shevchenko University. There I worked with Arisha Odarenko, she had just completed here ballet education and found time for an afternoon to work with me during a hot summer day (38 degrees).
With the help of my Kiev host – Angelina Zubrii – I got the permission to do a shooting inside of the very beautiful Golden Gate metro station. As it was during the normal opening hours – even late around 10 pm – there was a lot of traffic going on in the station and we had a lot of spectators and to wait between the metro trains to get the station not completely crowded.
Anna Muromtseva a soloist from the National Opera was willing to spent her evening with me doing this shots in the metro station. What I need to do is to repeat this shooting with – if possible – a classical costume preferable white as this would emphasize and contrast at the same time this beautiful location.
Anna Gerus helped me to get contact to some dancers from this ballet troupe and we went some morning first to the Ukraine State Aviation Museum. Strange to me was that the tourist guides I had don’t even mention this beautiful museum with a lot of historical airplanes and helicopters. There one can take photos amongst of all this cool airplanes. During morning time it is the best to take photos as there are less people and best light ;o).
At the museum I met my good friend ballet photographer who helped me in Odessa very much – Andrey Stanko – and we decided to integrate him into a photo together with Serhii Shcherbinenko from the KYIV MODERN-BALLET theatre.
As it is difficult to get the time from the dancers matching to the weather conditions I took the opportunity and took Svetlana Vecherka and Serghii with me to the Olimpic Stadium of Kiev. There we met another dancer from the KYIV MODERN-BALLET theatre: Olya Onishchenko. And I used the chance to work at the same time with 3 ballet dancers, which has its challenges ;o).
Luckily I got Ekaterina Alaeva, a ballerina from the National Opera (https://opera.com.ua/persons/baletna-trupa-solisti-baletu-pershi-solisti-z-pravom-vedennya- vistavi/alaieva-katerina), to work with me already sometimes. For her I selected the National Art Museum of Ukraine
In September I taught a workshop on Ballet Photography in Kiev and just with an 180 degrees turn and 80 m from the National Art Museum I found the Dynamo Kiev Museum where we had a workshop session with Olga Parshina – Posternak and Vladislav Romashchenko and they did a cool job. For this Essay I selected the solo of Olga.
The last shooting I did in Kiev was again with Svetlana Vecherka. I could not do more as my Visum expired and I had to leave the country. Unfortunately it is difficult to get a residential Visum for the Ukraine. Well, the last shooting was one of my dream shootings: Bad weather – rain – combined with winds in front of the Motherland Statue – Rodina Mat – and luckily Svetlana agreed to it and additionally had some cool umbrellas, so my last ballet shooting in the Ukraine resulted very different then the ones before.
Generally I love to work with ballet dancers. Originally I am coming from people and nude photography, but it is so much more exiting to create photos with ballet dancers that I am now investing 70 % of my time in creating ballet photos. This project is challenging in terms of finding a matching schedule with the dancers, the weather, and my own, as I am quite occupied with my language school. But I love every minute.
A problem is that it takes a lot of time to organize to get permission to some special locations or that some locations want to have money to shoot there. As it is no commercial shooting I do not earn any money. So I kicked out the shooting inside premises of the olympic stadium which really hurt as I love this stadium.
Further on I cannot accomplish my project in the timeframe expected as the dancers are very occupied with their rehearsals so it takes much longer to complete as i have no residency in Ukraine and only limited entry into Ukraine. I guess to complete this project I need at least another 2 to 3 years, or even longer as I have already a similar project in Cuba, Argentina and in Russia in plan.
To find the locations, the right time and the right dancer takes some time but I just love to learn about the cities and the people, and for sure you do that in such a project. I ador the results and I love that my dancers love to work with me and trust in me.
Currently I am looking for contacts into the ballet world of Perm, Moscow, Havana, Paris, Milano and Buenos Aires. My language skills are fluent in German, English and Spanish and intermediate in Russian. Contact me :o)) I don’t bite :o))
All photography by Klaus Wegel, Anna Pavlova Network 2018. All rights reserved