If you’ve ever seen images of Ballet BC dancers, chances are you’ve already witnessed the photographic prowess of Michael Slobodian. Since 1978, Slobodian has been capturing the physicality and artistry of dancing bodies in still images throughout Canada and abroad. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Ballet BC, nine of Slobodian's iconic portraits are on display at Scotiabank Dance Centre, as part of Vancouver’s month-long Capture Photography Festival.
Located in downtown Vancouver, just off of Granville Street, the Dance Centre’s bright entrance provides a clean slate for the row of images wrapping around a corner above the staircase. Each portrait is crisp and structured, containing a single dancer framed against a white background. This contrast lends a silhouette-like quality to the photos, yet the sharp focus accentuates the details of musculature. Although the dancers are frozen in a moment of action, their trajectory remains evident. Hairs flick. Toes point. Fingers splay. They reach, push, leap, extend, twist, compress and release with apparent ease.
The company’s contemporary sensibility allows for ballet to take on nontraditional forms and shapes. Of the nine images, eight contain the full-body view of each dancer, either airborne or balanced centrally in a zone of negative space. They appear otherworldly, as if gravity was unheard of. Only one photograph, that of Darren Devaney, is framed to reveal just the upper body in a great spiral twist of the spine. This is the only break in the otherwise uniformity of images.
Recognized as one of Canada’s most prominent dance photographers, Slobodian’s special relationship with local company Ballet BC stems from his friendship with Artistic Director Emily Molnar. Through the complementary art forms of dance and photography, collaboration between Ballet BC and Slobodian allow both to display their appreciation for the subtle essence of movement. Slobodian’s expertise in photographing the moving body plays up this harmony. He shoots instinctively, recording unexpected moments of human architecture full of breath and power.
I recommend attending a Ballet BC performance live, but if that isn’t possible, you now have the chance to appreciate the company’s athletic nuance through Slobodian’s striking images.
The Ballet BC 30th Anniversary Photo Exhibition runs from March 14 to May 31, 2016, at the Scotiabank Dance Centre. For more information about Capture Photography Festival (April 1 - 28, 2016), visit capturephotofest.com.