Behind the Scenes in Fair Verona

Posted January 11th 2017

In an earlier blog post, I showed some pictures from a publicity shoot with the Cambridge University Ballet Club, who were preparing for their production of Romeo and Juliet. I described it as my first small step into the world of dance photography.

The second step was soon to follow when I was invited to take some photos for the club’s website during one of their rehearsals at Cambridge’s West Road Concert Hall. It was amazing to see how much progress had been made, considering that the performance had not even been fully choreographed when I had last met the dancers, less than a month earlier.

Being a newcomer to ballet, it was difficult to know what would make a good picture in the eyes of a dancer. As a photographer, I instinctively look for creative compositions, interesting angles, emotion, and story-telling moments. However, a ballet club might be most interested in shots that best showcase their choreography and dancing skills. When taking pictures for someone else, a photographer needs to take the client’s perspective into careful consideration as they develop their artistic vision for the shoot. The photographer’s style and creative talents will always be seen in the pictures, but they shouldn’t lose sight of the brief.

Fortunately, a little preparation had given me an idea of what was required, and as I was working with two more experienced dance photographers, I was confident that between us we were getting the shots that the club was hoping for. This gave me some freedom to also try a few behind-the-scenes shots, documenting the story of a ballet rehearsal. I have included a few of these in my selection of images below.

I was back at West Road two weeks later for the final night of the show, this time as a member of the audience and without my camera. It was a wonderful performance and an amazing achievement by everyone involved in the production. My introduction to ballet had been a great experience and would lead to further opportunities in dance-related photography.

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6 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes in Fair Verona

  1. Hi Jim. Great to see more photos. Trying to capture the grace and movement of ballet must be very challenging for a photographer. I think your shots do you manage to do that but the one I like the best is the dancer sitting down with her pointed toes. Also the one of the feet – I feel there must be more to explore on that angle.

  2. Yes. It is easier to capture a characterful moment when people aren’t moving too quickly! The one with the dancer sitting on the bench and the director in the foreground was one of those moments. As you say, her pointed toes make it more interesting, especially since she is actually resting at this point – ballet dancer’s instinct, I suppose!

  3. I absolutely love ballet, and what, for me, distinguishes it from other forms of musical experience is that you get to take pleasure just simply in the shapes and movement achievable by the human body. Obviously, capturing this movement side of things in still photography would always be a challenge, but I think what these images succeed in conveying more than anything else is a real sense of the amount of hard work and collective endeavour that goes into creating a production – work which is, nonetheless, entered into with a huge sense of joy and purpose by all those involved. These are the faces of a group of people who are committed and passionate about what they do – and what more wonderful subject could one seek to capture than that!

    1. This was my first real experience of ballet, Neil. I was left with the same impressions that you mention in your comments. The movement and shapes formed by the dance poses are elegant and beautiful. And there is a lot of dedication and hard work behind the production.

      I am working with the same ballet club for their next production. Their performances of Giselle will be later this month.

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