Athletic Artists

Integrating movement & emotion with music is how dancers turn their athleticism into art.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
Led by Light
Choreography & Costumes by Maria Caruso
Music by Zoe Keating
L to R – Principal Artists Kaylin Treese & Bethany Schimonsky

The foundation of my interest in dance goes back to the 1st time I saw West Side Story on TV circa 1966. Over the years my primary exposure to this art form was via cinema. Later, musical theater gave another venue to experience talented artists in live story telling. On stage or on camera, dance is a very powerful & memorable component of entertainment.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
Intimate Liaisons
Choreography & Costumes Maria Caruso
Music by Kronos Quartet
Top to Bottom Principal Artists Kaylin Treese & Nicole Ivan

In ‘02 I saw the Alvin Ailey Company perform their signature work Revelations. The overwhelming emotional power of that performance impacted me in a way no other production has ever done. It motivated me to explore the world of dance beyond the supporting role it had in film & musicals.

Christina Lindhout Verb Ballet Cleveland

Even though dance is best suited to the stage or the screen, as I got back into photography I realized that still images of dancers are dramatically powerful & beautiful.  I also recognized that capturing those decisive moments was extremely challenging.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
  Mother’s Prism
Choreography & Costumes by Maria Caruso
Music by Arnald Olafur & Dustin O’Halloran
Principal Ambassador Artist Amanda Fisher

To try to learn more about what I considered good dance photos I looked at thousands of images to establish ground rules for pictures I liked. Lighting, form within the frame, costume, environment, foreground, background, expressions & occasionally shadows were important. I also was determined to always be head to toe. Recent dance films or shows feel the need to cut away from the dancing. Show me see the dancers dancing!

Christina Lindhout Verb Ballet Cleveland

In reviewing so many images I soon discovered that not unlike accomplished sports figures, the dancers muscle tone/tension highlighted an athleticism that in my mind’s eye had been subtle. The lighting & costumes are the most critical factors in capturing this detail revealing the unseen elements of power & strength. The images I liked best made great use of theatrical, studio or natural light & fashion.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
Led by Light
Choreography & Costumes by Maria Caruso
Music by Zoe Keating
L to R – Principal Artists Bethany Schimonsky & Kaylin Treese

I recognized that unlike those that compete in sports, dancers are athletes that create art with their athleticism. For me, this was a new perspective of how their talents are perceived.  Blending this with the ability to layer emotions onto their movements elevates the viewer’s connection to the drama. Capturing that moment on a still camera is an ongoing challenge I find rewarding.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
Vespers
Choreography and Costumes by Maria Caruso
Music by Aix Em Klemm
From Left to Right – Company Artist Derrick Izumi and Founding Director Maria Caruso

Head to toe is usually the best way to see the complete visual story. The space around the dancers is critical to emphasizing the form. I also prefer an odd number of dancers providing asymmetrical balance. However, two dancers can provide a balance I like. Also, I can crop tighter than head to toe to create a better image. I made those rules so I can break them!

Christina Lindhout Verb Ballet Cleveland

With almost any image, red can be a dramatic addition if not overwhelming. Beyond that my “fashion” opinion is shallow. I quickly recognized that for me controlled lighting had the most impact on images that inspired me. Moving into a position for strong backlight helped to provide the silhouetted form of her legs.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
Life Force
Choreography and Costume by Maria Caruso
Music by Garth Stevenson
Founding Director Maria Caruso

One of my biggest peeves is the unavoidable horizons in photos of stage performances. While stage lighting is often less than perfect from a photography perspective I recognized that environment & look is part of the visual story. Also, don’t sweat things you can’t control. In my mind’s eye the black stripe across the lower third of this image adds strength to the base of the picture. The consistency of the lighting in this performance was a big plus.

Christina Lindhout Verb Ballet Cleveland

During my initial exploration of dance photography the leaps & jumps with the dancer suspended in midair caught my eyes. While this type of image is indeed sensational, I found that it could easily become unimaginative. I do like non-traditional locations of dancers. Photos showcasing the talent of these artists outside of the rehearsal studio & off the stage add drama.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
Really?!
Choreography and Costumes by Maria Caruso
Music by Quixotic
Principal Artist Nicole Ivan

As I am learning, it is crucial to the dancers that all of the details of their lines are precise. I am extremely grateful for the critique & education that Maria Caruso Founding Director of Bodigraphy has given me. I have photographer eyes & she is helping me understand dancer’s eyes. Having respect of the dancers perspective & approval of my images is critical. Details are extremely important!

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
Rehearsal of Billboards
Choreography and Costume by Maria Caruso
Principal Artist Nicole Jamison

In addition to her personal review of my images Maria Caruso has allowed me to shoot a rehearsal at her studio & a live performance. Without getting to geeky…the low light sensitivity of the camera sensors along with a new software programs are wonderful tools.  Since I got camera geeky I will get history geeky. Bodiography’s studio is Gene Kelley’s old studio!

Christina Lindhout Verb Ballet Cleveland

In my quest for doing more/better dance photography I signed up for a workshop entitled Dancing in the Dark. I looked forward to an opportunity for some control of lighting & more direct input to the dancers posing & movement. Unfortunately I was disappointed with the way the lighting was handled & less than thrilled with the locations. On the positive side Christina Lindhout of Verb Ballet was a very easy model to work with. I appreciated the way she could very subtlety change her form while understanding what myself & others photogs were trying to capture.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
Rehearsal of Mother’s Prism
Choreography and Costumes by Maria Caruso
From Top to Bottom – Principal Artist Kaylin Treese and Principal Ambassador Artist Melissa Tyler

I’m extremely grateful for the support & opportunities Maria Caruso Founding Director of Bodiographics has provided. It is likely in the near future I will do a photography workshop with a recognized dance photographer. (Work I enjoy the most is predominately from Eastern Europe & naturally St. Petersburg Russia.)

My heartfelt thanks to Amanda, Bethany, Christina, Derrick, Kaylin, Maria, Melissa, Nicole & all the talented dancers at Bodiography Contemporary Ballet. I believe everyone dreams they could do what you do!

Inspired by Collaboration

My minds eye for Dance Photography was to capture that moment of form. Following Mary Miller & Charles Hall as they created a new performance for the Nandanik Dance Festival. I witnessed talented professional artists building a performance.

02
Creative collaboration is a dynamic process especially when the artists involved have known & worked together for 20 years. Mary has danced professionally since 1967. Her work in Modern Dance doesn’t mimic what others do. In Charles’ career as a musician, he has had many opportunities to work with Mary as an accompanist at classes, with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, Civic Light Opera & many site-specific theater performances.

03
The essential musical talent Charles brought to the development of this work was his drumming. However, his presence on stage & interaction with the drums became an integral part of the choreography. Mary was the motivator of movement. Their ideas merged & evolved as I experienced more than just a few chances to capture some photographs.

04
In the rehearsal studios of Point Park University, where Charles is an accompanist, Mary guided the staging & basic flow of the piece. Charles was nurturing not only the live voices of the drums but a soundtrack he would record to add another musical layer. Watching the free flow of ideas between these professionals as they cultivated their options during run-throughs was intriguing.

05
Mary likes working with people who don’t take themselves to seriously because they are more open to what they will experiment with. During her career, she has worked with poets, fiber artists, sculptors & other artistic partners. Talking with Charles about the collaboration he immediately remarked upon the importance of trusting the other people. They must be invested in working together & listening to all ideas.

07
Mary’s interaction with the drums & music developed into a vehicle for Charles. As the design of the piece came together, his character observed her & the drums with trepidation. Until, with her enticement, he became comfortable with making his own music. Their combined interaction added emotion & character to the work now titled “Friendship”. The resulting music at the hands of Charles unlocked the movements Mary had been walking thru. In true Miller style the performance with a live musician was much deeper than possible with just pre-recorded music.

08
With opening night a few days away the Tech Rehearsal at Carnegie Library & Music Hall, they went over the props, audio & lighting with stage manager Joan Greenwood. With as much combined experience as both Mary & Charles have they realize the importance of coordinating with “the house” to put the final details on their work.

09
The difference between the rehearsal studio & the tech run-thru on stage is significant. It isn’t just because of the lights, audio & space. This is where the final decisions are agreed upon while defining positions in the actual environment. Their movements in their final rehearsal became even more precise as the performance was almost at hand.

09a
It is difficult to say if it was decades of experience, self-confidence or the diversity of her career that leaped out as she began polishing the final touches on “Friendship” during the Tech. It was obvious Mary was headed for a new crescendo I had not yet seen. Even though I had watched the piece develop I was anxious to see the final result.

09b
With the background soundtrack complete Charles was confident in what they had forged from their ideas. He had channeled his initial reluctance to be moving around on the stage into a motivation for his character.

10a
“Friendship” had become more than contemporary dance. It was a musical performance. It was theater. The drums weren’t just instruments & props. They played a supporting role. The collaboration of vision, experience, talent & trust was now what I was seeing.

11
The night of the performance the dancer, the musician & the drum ended the work by exiting stage right as they had done in rehearsals. This time they had a little more spring in their step. The culmination of all of their work & molding of ideas had reached the inevitable conclusion with style.

12
After returning to the stage for their bows they each stepped back gesturing to the now static & silent drums acknowledging the role they had played. They had not done this in rehearsals but I was ready & got the shot. Not what I had originally envisioned but I captured my moment of form for a scene that was part of a very human story.