This post is the first in the World of Dances series, which profiles ballet and dance photography in iconic, architectonically unique, culturally emblematic, rapidly vanishing landmarks or simply unexpected locations, that Kike captures about during his travels.
We are used to thinking of ballet as an indoor display of beauty and masterful technique. When I got an assignment for the National Ballet of Panama to create images to promote ballet among younger generations, I immediately wondered what would happen if I were to take ballet beyond the familiar confinement of the classic theater walls. What would happen if I were to take ballet to the streets of Panama. The advertising campaign, however, had other plans. Typical stage shootings were in mind.
I sought full creative freedom and I accepted the assignment on one condition. I would be allowed to take the dancers to iconic, architectonically unique, culturally emblematic, rapidly vanishing landmarks or simply unexpected locations. This was the start of my ongoing project across Latin America and beyond, which I have called World of Dances.
I started exploring uncommon locations and eventually fled from the sleek Panamenian cityscape to the depths of the rainforest and ocean. Then, being a specialist in Latin America and taking advantage of my love of the local culture, I looked for the deeper relationships between the dancers and their own countries.
While doing this commercial photo assignment, I soon recognized that many elements of ballet had profound connections to my work. Ballerinas, like photographers and possibly most artists, spend a lifetime mastering skills that people only appreciate for a brief moment in time. For instance, audiences hardly realize that each pose implies the use of so many body muscles in the same way each photograph requires the use of so many skills that have been years in the making. In most cases, it takes a life long effort to achieve that perfection and excellence that seems natural and effortless.
Like in life, simple is normally best when it comes to photographing a project like this. Reducing a composition to its essence is not an easy task, but one that challenges me constantly. Being able to give the viewer a minimalist perspective, when my subjects merge with their surrounding in an almost magical way, is one of my primary goals. As in ballet, photography sometimes is all about purity, precision, discipline and beauty.
But that is not to say that ballet is limited to imagery of a fairytale princess weightlessly flying over the theater stage. I put a strong effort on each photo that I take for this project to show the subtleties of the dancers character. Beyond the skillful dancer, I photograph the person who has put in hard work, who daydreams about what the future might bring professionally, whose eye expressions show the delicacy of ballet.
This project will soon have the first coffee table book of the series.
Note: Special thanks to all the dancers and people who are making this project possible.
Kike Calvo Ballet Gift Collection
Books on Dance and Ballet:
Dancers: Behind the Scenes with The Royal Ballet
Selected Reading for Children: