About Susan

Sunday, February 19, 2012

In the Eye of the Beholder

I was volunteered recently to collaborate with a few photographers who had no experience working with dancers, and I gladly obliged since it's always interesting to see what results from working with photographers.  A photo shoot is always a neat opportunity to try out new poses and movements as well as go with the tried and true.

When I received some of the photos, I was dismayed by what I saw were unflattering angles and broken lines.  Did I really look that bad, or were the photographers just not capturing the moment?  But then I realized that this was 'working as intended' - the images I'd received were what the photographers considered the cream of their crop.  What I expected to see was obviously not their ideal.

Take the image here: I was disappointed because I'd worked so hard, jumping countless times (on a concrete floor!), to create the look of the bottom leg folded beneath my body while the other was behind me towards my head. So why did the photographer insist on framing the moment just as my bottom leg nearly made contact with the ground for landing, rather than to seize the jump at its greatest height?  

You can imagine my surprise when the photographer beamed proudly at this image, explaining how he'd captured the symmetry of my legs in opposition, "like a yin and yang symbol."  I'd never thought of it this way, and began to see his point despite my dismay.  I find I've warmed up to the image ... a little.

More important, this interesting experience made me realize how insular the dance world is and how much we take for granted the definitions of correct and incorrect in terms of classical lines.  We scrutinize ourselves in the mirror every day and take pains (literally) to learn what the "correct" positions feel like on our bodies.  But, upon seeing the collection of images from three non-dance photographers, I'm beginning to understand that beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder.  To know that someone sees something perfect and lovely in what I consider to be a complete miss is, to be honest, really refreshing!  It kindles hope within me that even I, with my flawed body and limited facility, can provide a perfect moment in dance for someone.
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