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Dance Ensemble, Essay Example

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Ballet photography is presented with essentially two problems: the presentation of movement vs pose, and the use of light vs shadow, which is to say the use of color, including solid black. In these series of photographs, we see the essentially two different outcomes as these two fundamental factors are emphasized or ignored: art vs. instruction.

In one photo, we see three dancers, two female and one male, the latter with his right arm extended straight upwards. The background is solid black, and bright color and shadow wrap themselves artistically around the bodies of the three. One the floor, however, shadow plays no role. Contrast this with the image of two of those same three dancers. The male is bent over, and the female is being pulled and draped over him. They are back to back. Here, the shadow on the floor in arguably an integral part of the composition. In both pictures, obvious motion plays no part. Indeed, in all of the pictures, the perception of motion is made central to the picture only through deliberate blurring. The effect is striking, but to the extent that it is striking, it is less an image of dance.  We are presented as well with images bathed in red, with shadow playing no essential role, save in one where the left background is black.  Where shadow plays no role, either on the floor or to hide the stage, it may take a gifted photographer to render the image into art. It is not impossible, but the shadowless pictures here fail in that regard. In all the images where the background intrudes, the images offer useful instruction but offer no aesthetic appeal. It may be that all dance photography that shows an unadorned background and no floor shadowing will fail as the genre’s art. An arguable example of success in this regard is the image frankly revealing the plain floor and the black backdrop. Two dancers wrestle as their floor-shadows balance the scene. In dance photography, shadows dance too.

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