Photographers' Blog

A special performance

Madrid, Spain

By Susana Vera

Luismi Astorga clasps his hands as he lifts his head up to the sky. He’s waiting to take the stage at a music club in Madrid where his dance group, Fusionarte, is taking part in a charity gala.

Astorga closes his eyes and begins to pray. The click of my camera breaks his concentration and he smiles at me as he proceeds to tell me, “Waiting makes me nervous.”

It’s not the first time Astorga has faced the thrill of performing for a live audience. He has been dancing with Fusionarte since Argentine choreographer and dancer Pau Vazquez formed the group six years ago with the aim of introducing dance to people with special needs.

Around 20 adult men and women with different intellectual disabilities make up the group. They rehearse every Saturday for an hour and occasionally they perform.

“The galas are the highlight for all of them. Many times we perform at places that are not really fit for dancing, but (that) does not matter to them. They feel special on any stage,” Vazquez says.

Kiev’s subway disco

Kiev, Ukraine

By Gleb Garanich

Passing through a pedestrian subway in central Kiev about twenty years ago, I saw elderly people dancing. I stopped for a few moments and then proceeded on my route – I was 25 years old at the time and, frankly speaking, this story was of no interest to me.

By pure accident, I ended up in the same place one evening in early February, and all of a sudden I felt a completely different attitude to what was happening… I was no longer indifferent to the lives and destinies of these people. What makes some 200 people gather in this passway on weekends for twenty years and dance for four hours?

Why gather in this very subway? Well, it is understandable – they have no money to rent a spacious room and dance indoors, and the mayor’s office allows them to gather underground instead of allocating any funds.

Therapy ballet

By Jim Young

I found out about the program, “Ballet Class for Kids with Movement Disabilities”, while flipping through a brochure as I waited for my daughter at her ballet class.

I contacted the instructor Dr. Citlali Lopez-Ortiz, who has a Ph.D in Kinesiology and a Masters in Dance, to see if I could photograph the weekly class. A week later she said the parents and instructors agreed and I could join them on Sunday.

I met eight-year-old Samara Almanza, who was dressed perfectly in all pink; tutu, tights, ballet shoes and all.

Signs of hope through music in Iran

For some people, here is the end of the world, but for some who live here, it is paradise.

The Kahrizak Charity Foundation in southern Tehran, is home to hundreds of mentally and physically impaired people who range in age from young and old. In this place, you can feel life and death, joy and woe, and people who love each other. For these people music is the only positive thing.

The first time I went to Kahrizak, I expected to meet people who didn’t know what they wanted in their life and were just waiting for the angel of death to arrive but it was not as I had presumed.

A day out with a swan

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.

The next Black Swans

After almost every assignment I come back home grateful for the peak into the world I was offered or the people I met. This last week was no exception as I covered the 39th Prix de Lausanne, an international dance competition for young dancers.

Ballet dancer Komine Saya from Japan performs her classical variation during the Prix de Lausanne semi-final competition in Lausanne February 5, 2011.   REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud
(click on the image above to view a multimedia presentation)

Some 75 candidates aged between 15 to 18 from 19 countries competed at the Palais de Beaulieu Theatre in Lausanne, Switzerland. The young dancers that made their way to the finals were either awarded with a scholarship granting free access to the finest dance schools or with an apprenticeship allowing them to be accepted without an audition to the most renowned ballet companies. In addition to the final and semi-final on the two last days of the event, the first four days were dedicated to training classes and rehearsals of the competition variations. The competitors were judged as they performed their classical and contemporary variation in front of the public during the finals but the jury also evaluated the candidates for their performance in the ballet and contemporary classes.

Ballet dancers perform during a contemporary class at the Prix de Lausanne in Lausanne February 1, 2011.   REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

I photographed two days of the preparation and the semi-finals, following the dancers through the different aspects of the competition leading up to the final. This included early morning warm-ups in the studios, individual coaching sessions on stage, backstage preparation and the semi-final leading to the selection of the 20 finalists. More photo opportunities than any photographer could hope for! These dancers devote their life to their passion, spending three days witnessing their rigorous training and the realization of their dream as they performed in front of the public was, once again, one of these assignments I come back home grateful for.

Warrior dance: Audio slideshow

A traditional Masaai dance is seen through the eyes of photographer Antony Njuguna.

Dance moves: Audio slideshow

“Dido and Aeneas”, featuring choreography by Mark Morris and music by English composer Henry Purcell, premiered in 1989 in Brussels and is one of the company’s most well-known and acclaimed works.

In this audio slideshow Morris talks about his experience choreographing the piece, dancing the lead and conducting the orchestra.

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