Posted July 27th 2017
When I arrived to photograph the dress rehearsal for the Cambridge University Ballet Club production of Giselle, there was a slight sense of unease in the auditorium. Something wasn’t quite right. But it wasn’t until someone pointed it out, that I realised there was no backdrop behind the stage. There was just a large metal gantry and an ugly brick wall; not an ideal background for a ballet set in a forest. There had been a mix-up. Instead of receiving the beautiful woodland scene backdrop that they had ordered, the ballet club had been sent one with a picture of a ship on it!
With only a day to go before the opening performance and no time to choreograph a more nautical tale, you might have expected a degree of panic among the organisers. However the show director appeared amazingly calm, having simply sent the ship away to find another port. In fact it was the photographers and videographers who seemed more concerned, not wanting their pictures and films to be spoiled by the unattractive background.
Sometimes, however, unusual circumstances can give rise to interesting results. Changing the rules can force you to break from routine practices and explore new approaches.
To avoid the distracting background, I decided to move from my usual position in the auditorium to shoot from the wings instead. This gave my pictures a different feel, with the light coming from one side and the dance formations creating interesting shapes in the images. The rehearsal pictures below were all taken from the side of the stage and I think it creates a different and quite dramatic mood.
However the main picture featured in this post (shown above), was one of the few that I took from in front of the stage. Unable to come to terms with the distracting brick background on the resulting image, I blackened it out during the editing process. I was pleasantly surprised by the effect this created, and it became one of my favourite shots from the rehearsal. Creativity born of necessity!
This story has a happy ending. Firstly, a beautiful forest backdrop arrived in time for the opening night and the show was a huge success! Secondly, my picture was selected by Shutter Hub for their exhibition at the Retina Scottish International Photography Festival and is currently on display at the Dark Room, Edinburgh EH6 6JJ.
On top of that, the experience has taught me a few new tricks!
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