I always thought I had a good eye for beauty but it was only in 1995 when I met and photographed Evelyn Hart that I realized that I had made the motion of taking my daughters to ballet when they were young because as a father that was my duty. It took watching Evelyn Hart dance, and talk an even do nothing, for me to appreciate a whole aspect of beauty that I had missed most of my life. It was and is the beauty of dance.
Today I attended a two and a half hour performance of dance that was tediously mediocre. You have to try very hard to see mediocre dance in Vancouver. I didn't try, I simply had no choice.
When I got home I knew I had only about three hours to keep my promise to write a blog every day. How could I write about mediocrity? I had to write something. I have to write about something that will lift my spirit.
Shortly after meeting Evelyn Hart I knew I wanted to attend as many dance performances as I could. At the time, in 1995, Shannon Rupp and then Gail Johnson wrote almost weekly columns on dance for the Georgia Straight. This meant that I was assigned to take many dance photographs as the de facto dance photographer for the paper. I quickly decided that I could not compete with the local and national dance photographer of note, David Cooper who photographs dancers in the air in his studio. I made up my mind to pursue my interest in portraiture and use that angle to photograph dancers.
In the late 70s and 80s I had come to realize that shooting rock bands during concerts was a sure way of falling into a crowd of photographers who did that and that it was virtually impossible to take pictures that were original or different. The name of the game was access. But with a long lens access was not all that important. I used access and Vancouver Magazine's pull (Les Wiseman's In One Ear column was legendary so it gave the magazine credibility) to take photographs back stage. Here I could impose my own style. I would use lights and take portraits of the band members or lead singers in their dressing rooms. One portrait in particular gave me a small measure of fame. It was a photograph of Johnny Thunders
When I was given the opportunity of taking pictures back stage during a Ballet BC rehearsal I jumped. The experience was frustrating as the dancers looked in the direction of the would be audience so I got strange side shots. The lighting was minimal and I was using small cameras (not one of my fortes). It confirmed for me my vow of taking pictures of dancers only as portraits under controlled lighting conditions. And then I looked at the real back stage of the back stage. She was a read haired dancer I had never seen before.
She was warming up. I was completely frozen in fascination and began to take some photographs. The photographs here of that dancer, Lauri Stallings do not do justice (for one thing they are not in colour) and you cannot discern her movements full of a grace I had never seen, nor seen since. Stallings had a style all her own. Just warming up she was perfection. A perfection that came from talent and training.
My mediocre dance experience of today has helped me at the very least to remember that perfection is there, even in the dark corners, if one is able to look for it. Perhaps too much perfection is not all that good.
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