Why Dance?

January 13th, 2008

9423 2 David 076 Why Dance? One more from the Lois Greenfield workshop. These dancers are, top to bottom, Dario Vaccaro, Miguel Quinones and Colleen T. Sullivan. I really can’t say enough good about these wonderful talented dancers who worked so hard to make these photos at Lois’ workshop in New York. These are the best dancers in the world and it really shows.

But why dance? What is it that has drawn me back to photographing dance after so many years away?

Well, in one sense it is sort of a first love. I was only 17 and just beginning to experience the world of art and culture when I first encountered modern dance and fell instantly in love with it. I’m not embarrassed to confess that beautiful women in tights had some impact on that 17-year-old, but it was true love, not just lust, that was going on. That love has remained through all these years. I only stopped doing dance photography because the other demands of my life just didn’t allow me enough time to do it properly. I now have that time again.

Dance photography takes a lot of time for me because I insist on being familiar with each dance before I pick up the camera. Many photographers approach dance in the same way they approach basketball. The technical challenges are similar, so that’s not surprising. But in dance pretty much the same things happen at the same time and in the same place every time. There’s no reason not to plan. Also, dance means something. There’s more to it than just capturing a peak action moment. So I like, if possible, to talk with the choreographer to get some idea of the thoughts behind the movement and become familiar with the dance in rehearsal before I shoot photos at a dress rehearsal. All that takes time, but for me it is time well spent.

There are some other things that never would have occurred to that 17-year-old photographer…but after 40 years they are things I think about now. I do think that 17-year-old was responding to these things in an instinctive way, though he could not have begun to articulate the ideas.

Photography and Dance are just about as opposite as two art media can be. Dance may be the oldest, at least is one of the very oldest, forms of artistic expression. We’ll never know if our ancestors started beating on a hollow log to accompany their dancing or began dancing to the beat of the hollow log. But we can be certain that dance was there in the most primitive of societies. Photography, on the other hand, is a product of the industrial age, made possible by scientific experimentation. Digital photography has moved the medium into the information age, separating it from its physical and chemical roots.

Dance is performance. The instrument is the human body moving through space and time. Photography is a very different kind of performance with the result showing up later, completely separated from the photographer. It is still and two-dimensional.

And, most importantly, I think, dance is movement in space and time…it happens and it is gone. Photography is still…its speciality is freezing movement, capturing an instant, and saving it for the future…the exact opposite of the ephemeral dance.

The tension between those opposite tendencies and characteristics of the two media create a tremendous attraction for me. It is impossible to photograph dance. Dance must be experienced. But it is a wonderful challenge to try to capture something of a dance that helps save that instantly vanishing moment of artistic expression for the future. I love trying to do that. It seems I have been able at times to achieve a modest level of success, and it’s always nice to do something that you can do well.

So, that’s why I’m photographing dance now. I don’t consider my dance photographs to be art. They are, rather, an attempt to capture the art work of others, choreographers and dancers who bring tremendous skill and talent to their performances. I only seek to make some photographs that show that skill and talent and art.

dance, dance photography, Lois Greenfield Workshop, New York, studio | Comments | Trackback

2 Responses to “Why Dance?”

  1. 1Nick
    December 31st, 2010 @ 12:10 am

    So was the workshop worth it? Did you feel like you learned a lot and got a chance to build your portfolio?

    I’m thinking about taking it.

  2. 2dave
    December 31st, 2010 @ 2:51 pm

    The value of Lois Greenfield’s workshops varies according to what you want to get out of it and what your level of knowledge is going in. If you are familiar with dance, but new to photographing it, or if you have not photographed dance in a studio environment, you will learn a great deal at the workshop. If you have a good deal of dance photography experience you will pick up a few pointers and have the chance to meet and talk with Lois, who is a great individual and great photographer, so that’s a very valuable experience. So, by all means, take her workshop.

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About this Blog

Photos and comments by Dave Levingston. This is the place to see my most recent work which may include nudes, dance, landscape, nature and whatever other kinds of photos I feel like taking.

Since it does contain nude photos, this blog is not intended for viewing by anyone under the age of 18.

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