A day out with a swan

March 4, 2011

After watching Natalie Portman’s Oscar winning performance in Black Swan which she portrays a perfectionist ballerina who ultimately breaks down, I was intrigued by the life of ballet dancers. They endure hours of toe curling training just to perfect their art.

A dancer from the State Ballet of Georgia warms up before a dress rehearsal for Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial in Taipei March 2, 2011.  REUTERS/Nicky Loh

My chance to meet real life professional ballerinas came when performers from the State Ballet of Georgia performed Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial in Taipei. I was granted behind the scenes access to the famed ballet piece which was also the core theme of the movie. I felt like my sense of curiosity for ballet would be duly curbed.

I was excited the night before and did all the research I could on Swan Lake so as not to sound like a fool when talking to any of the dancers.

Dancers from the State Ballet of Georgia perform during a dress rehearsal for Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial in Taipei March 2, 2011.  REUTERS/Nicky Loh

The next day, I arrived at the venue and was waiting for the media relations representative to bring me in. As I was waiting, a man came up to me and started asking me which brands of camera he should buy and what lenses were good for dance. We started to chat and I asked him what part he played in Swan Lake. “The prince!” He replied, beaming with pride. I was taken aback as I did not expect to be chilling out with one of the stars of Swan Lake backstage (and he did really look like one of the lighting guys in the crew). I thought to myself “aren’t these dancers supposed to be super intense?” But there we were, chatting and joking around just before his rehearsal performance.

I was pleasantly surprised and happy that despite being masters of their craft, they are just everyday people too. I say this because I think that for someone to spend all his life making that incredible amount of self-sacrifice for the art form, it has to make them pretty intense. This experience certainly changed my perspective.

I also had the opportunity to speak to Lali Kandelaki, who plays the lead characters of the White and Black Swan. The veteran ballerina has been with the Georgia State Ballet for 20 years and counting. She was jovial during the interview but the intensity showed once she got on stage.

A Day Out With A Swan from Nicky Loh on Vimeo.

Swan Lake is definitely a visual buffet for any photographer. The gracefulness of the ballerinas was a feast for me to shoot and I hope I have a chance to revisit this topic for pictures again.

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