Under the crinoline tu-tus, bright costumes and silk shoes, ballet is grueling. It is years of practicing. Around age four is a good time to start.
Ballet is high energy. Ballet is passionate. It is dedicating your life for those two hours of rapture performing. Hundreds of hours of rehearsal go into creating that artistic vision of gravity defying grace and beauty. Dancers push themselves beyond human endurance practicing over and over for months so, when the colored lights come up on stage, they pour out their passion, hoping to take the audience with them to new heights of emotion.
Getting to that point is exhausting, aggravating and emotionally devastating. There is also a euphoria that comes from striving so hard and reaching so high. A feeling of family amongst those who take that journey together, and a lot of laughter and fun to counteract the stress and frustration.
When I first considered how to present the process of all the work and dedication that went into producing a professional ballet production through pictures, I thought of what photography style and medium would best capture that power with an intimacy that brought the viewer in to the story. I pored over the work of famous photographers throughout history to try to learn how to capture that kind of energy.
After fruitless searches through different pretty and polished dance photographs, I found the style I was looking for in, of all places, old Rolling Stone magazines. Particularly the high energy rock and roll photogrpaphy of the sixties and seventies. From The Beatles to Woodstock, Led Zeppelin and the Who. The most engaging photographs to me were not the polished publicity photographs, but photographs of rock icons slumped over smoking a cigarette after a long night in the studio, goofing off during sound check, hanging out backstage, or even bored waiting for their flight at the airport while on world tour.
The two things the best rock and roll photographs had in common was that they were from this era when rock and roll began to take shape, and they were all on film. There was blur from the era before autofocus, there was big grain in the photographs, and there was a gritty raw feel that made me feel like I was there.
It is that vigor that I have tried to capture in this visual documentary. It is all shot on 135 film with manual focus cameras that are decades older than the dancers they were used to photograph.
I was aggravated one night later in the process of photographing this project when the 'real' photographers showed up with their expensive digital cameras and yard-long zoom lenses and basically shoved me out of the way to get their production stills. I texted my wife venting my frustration.
She texted back, "Relax. Get the shot from a more interesting angle. Remember, you're shooting little rock stars."
That is what this book is about.
Morgan H. Lee