Authenticity in Dance Photography

Authentic moments, those that come from our deeper emotional experiences, are captivating for those who observe them. More than amazing physical feats and more than the most stunning dance technique, authentic movements touch the basic core where humans connect non-verbally. This is the magic of dance. This, too, is the magic of great dance photography. There are three things that make a dance photograph great: authenticity, detail, and connection.

There is a common thread in all of the photographic moments that stop a viewer in their tracks and make them take notice. That is authenticity. Those authentic moments are when a dancer completely gives themselves to the character and the movement. Being in character is what must be brought into the photography studio to make great images happen. Often when dancers come to be photographed they think in terms of the pose. There is no posing but rather the complete opposite takes place.  I seek a perhaps radical transformation with dancers such that the “shape” that she or he brought to be photographed is no longer a “pose” but a dynamic, flowing, living expression of movement. 

Mastering the expression of dance makes the photograph captivating, yet without careful attention to detail, that which might have been profound will fall short. Meticulous attention to the nuances of hair, jewelry, makeup and costumes is extremely important. Each photograph can transform mere humanness.  Make sure the choice for every detail reflects back to the authentic character.  Being rigorous about the details of proper technique is critical. But that alone will not make a photograph memorable.  Often transitional moments between movements can be captivating; catching emotion in motion, forever suspending a passionate moment in time.

Overcoming any initial nervousness that occurs when you work with a photographer is crucial.  It is very important that you talk with a photographer and mutually agree on the photographic goals before you shoot.  Take the time to observe their photographs and point out the ones that interest you.  Talk about your goals.  Discuss your artistic preferences as a dancer or choreographer. Shooting tribal belly dance, for example, has very different imagery than cabaret. 

Use descriptive words to make your mutual vision more clear.  Great photos will live forever in the minds of those who see them.  They cause the viewer to pause, to take time allowing the frozen moment to wash over them.  There are an infinite number of ways to light and shoot a subject, and a myriad of poses can be chosen. That alone will not create amazing photographs.  To capture brilliance, be brilliant!  Perform for the camera.  Make clear choices about the nuances of every detail.  Take the time to really connect with the photographer and surrender any egocentric thoughts to let the dance come through in a genuine expression of the moment.

- Scott Belding