Dance and Photographing the Human Form

One of the first jobs I got when I started my business was taking class portraits for a local dance studio, Diamond Talent. The photographer they had worked with decided to move on and Brian insisted that we do it, not sure why. We didn’t know Brian and Melinda at all, and I had no experience with dance (though Signe had danced as a youth and in college).

Emily Tate
Emily Tate, before Juilliard

Since that time we have become fast friends, helping each others’ businesses and watching each others’ children grow up. Our daughter Bella has been taking dance since age three, and our son even took a couple of years, not because he loved dance but because he saw that there was a valuable life experience to be had. I feel so lucky to have dance in our lives (even though I have two left feet and am afraid to move my body in public).

Cheyenne Stark
Cheyenne Stark, senior portraits

As I have learned, dance is a beautiful art form, one of the highest forms of human expression. And it has taught me so much about photography. The link between dance and photography is, for me, making the body beautiful. Dancers spend a lot of time learning and practicing core balance, strength and form. It matters where the arms are in relation to the body; it matters how the fingers are splayed and how the wrists and arms are bent; it matters how the torso is held and how the shoulders are presented; it matters where the feet are placed; it matters how the head is held. All this matters because there is a long tradition of study and science backing the art of dance and the human form.

Isabella Adams
my daughter Isabella

This is why I love photographing dancers (I make a distinction here between photographing dancers and photographing dance — dance photography, which I also love, is very difficult, and one must always take care to capture and show the dancer at the peak of their movement). Dancers know how to hold themselves, to present themselves and make their bodies look good. In portraiture they make my job easy. By studying dancers and experiencing their art as I have over the last dozen years, I have learned techniques for posing non-dancers, those people who have no practice or have not thought much about how to hold and present their body. So if you photograph people, consider studying dance to improve your understanding of the human form.

This video shows Diamond Talent alumni (in order of appearance) Emily Tate, Alex Larson (both now studying at Juilliard in New York City), Jamie Traxler (studying at the University of Utah), Katie Holt (now teaching at Diamond Talent), and Andy Tofa (studying at Oklahoma University). They are all beautiful, lyrical artists of the human form.

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