The recital that almost didn’t happen

Got to keep the train rolling here and see how long it takes me to catch up to present day from a summer of craziness. At the other end of the wedding that kicked it off, the next week we had our last dance recital. Looking back it seems like forever ago, for all the trouble the girls went through, their last time dancing together was a beautiful and heart warming event. To briefly recap the weeks leading up to it, the dance studio abruptly closed and with it any hope of having a recital or seeing the competition team perform at Nationals. However, the parents and teachers called foul and brought a community together. Donations poured in allowing the recital to go off as planned and garnering enough support to send the competition team off to Nationals as well.  An enormous thanks again to all who came through, and much love to Amy Cowley of Jersey Shore Performing Arts Center for leading the way.

The night was full of stars, but this one stole the show

I do not know if she was the youngest dancer of the night, but she was close. The teams youngest dancer had my eye all season. She has so much talent, more than she knows I do believe, and she was rocking it all year-long.

The next young lady has been in front of my lens on numerous occasions, never takes a bad photo and always gives me great material.

As a group it was difficult for me to see the season end the way it did. They all deserved so much more, they all have gone their separate ways now that the studio is closed, but all remain friends and in contact with each other. Mine is off at her first year of college doing a minor in dance, one is concentrating on her beautiful singing voice and the rest are still getting it done with their current dance schools.

And that trip to Nationals, well it resulted in a first overall in their category! The song to which they danced to, most apropos for today, is called No Hate. Check out the theme of month for a shot we set up during some down time. When you have the girls in a setting like we were in you just have to have a little fun.

Love baby. All we need is Love.

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A Community of Love

This one is a little tough for me to talk about. After attending our dance school for 13 years it has closed shop. Three weeks before recital, 5 weeks before nationals. Poof, done. No warning at all. Heartbreak, disappointment, betrayal and lord knows what other thoughts filled the minds of 75 students and their families. The five girls on the competition team have felt it the most, sticking by the studios owner last year while others departed for alternate places to dance. These are the girls that spend hours and hours a week at the studio, performing at competitions, proudly displaying their colors. Their life has been pulled out from underneath them.

When word got out about what had gone down, and it did not take long, the outpouring of love and support was incredible and 60 hours later we were able to get rehearsal space and the recital space we needed to see all of these dancers fulfill their ambitions and to show their families what they had learned during the year. Thank you to everyone who helped in getting this done. One of our teachers and our competition team advisory board are using all of their experience in arranging the show. Me, I am putting in my efforts and will be taking the group photos for all the dances at dress rehearsal. Of course this means I will not be doing my normal routine of shooting the dancers on stage, but I will be on it hard during the actual show.

Our next step is to obtain funding for the competition team to go to dance nationals. The money that had been put out by the teams parents is now gone. We do not know where it went or why it did not reach its destination, but what is done is done. We are hoping it went into keeping the studio open for as long as it could.  Hope and faith are a balancing act right now.

A Go Fund Me page for the girls has been established and lord willing, the goal will be reached and we will get them there. If you can help out just click the link. You will be a part of making five girls very, very happy.

I will check back in after recital. Lots and lots to do!

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Shout out to Dance Olympus/Dance America for keeping it real.

We have been traveling to dance competitions for the past ten years now, and I continually hear the same thing when it comes to capturing photographs of my girls – “no photos allowed to protect the dancers and the choreography of the dances”. While I have yet to understand how you can figure out choreography from stills, I do agree with trying to protect the dancers. Some joe schmo off the street walks in and starts popping away at the kids, not cool.  While I have mentioned this a few times, restraint and respect has curtailed me from unleashing a spree about the competitions only using this as an excuse to get more money from their attendees by selling them pictures. Which has led me to take a stance of refusing to purchase photos from any of them. Me taking photos of my team will not affect their sales in the least.  As much as this has infuriated me, I have dealt with it and not captured the girls on stage. Openly anyway.

I would like to give a big shout out to the folks at Dance America/Dance Olympus for keeping it real and allowing photography during their events. Their rules are No Video – makes perfect sense as this is how choreography really gets stolen, and no flash.  Absolutely agree there. Despise the use of flash when performing. We used to attend their events every year, and then the past three years or so the studio has had scheduling conflicts coinciding with the DA/DO events. The folks put on a very professional show and the last day is all workshops, which are required of dancers that compete. This is how you make money the right way. I will pay for good education any day. This organization allows me to do my thing, help promote our studio and give the girls a few chuckles while they look at their faces on the back of the camera.

As my daughter and her teammates have grown as dancers, I have grown as a photographer. I owe so much to them, many were my guinea pigs while I learned how to shoot in the studio. Each year we create a book for the dance school from whatever has been recorded, and a few of my prints even grace the walls. As I am sure someone is wondering about this, yes, I have full consent from the parents and our director.

And that is what I do, document our year. It is never easy capturing these dances, a style of shooting I am a bit rusty with. I did “cheat” during the solos and changed bodies to my high-speed crop sensor. When your environment is uncontrolled it is a must. If I was head on and had no distracting objects in my path perhaps I would have made a different decision. Eh, Probably not. Use the tools you have, that is what they are for. I was talking iso with  one of my music photographer friends and he was surprised when I told him that for my music stuff I am always at 5000. I can, it works for me so I do. The dance stuff I never go above 2500, especially with the crop body. Normally hanging around 2000 for this stuff as long as I can keep a decent shutter speed.

Our next competition that policy is in place so I will be gritting my teeth the whole weekend while I deal with that inane rule. My plea would be for the organizations who have this policy to state what it really means instead of hiding behind the attendees. The only thing that is being protected is the company that is selling the photos of a public event in a public place.

Well, I ended up teetering just a little bit there. Do not want to get carried away, so I am going to leave it be.

A few more from the fun filled weekend. This first dancer is the youngest on the team, she put in an outstanding solo hiding behind that mask. I get the feeling she has no idea how good she really is.

I have always loved those looks when you can tell they are fully immersed and invested in the number. Combined with the right music, it often will bring me to fatherly tears of joy. Yup, I admitted it.  My wife says I am a sap….  So be it.

Managed to capture one or two of the daughter that will be going on our walls. “But my arm is not straight” she says, exactly why it works. It is funny when they critique themselves though photos. Don’t do it. At the pinnacle of your movement it may have been perfect, I just did not record that point. Look at the video the organization is going to send you to do a critique. Just enjoy what we have in stills, and don’t worry, the bad ones do get deleted.

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Tiny Dancers

Tiny Dancers may actually be a bit of a misnomer since the age range of these dancers go from 9 – 17, but I like the way it sounds. And when you are on the upside of the middle age bracket, well we will leave it at that. I had the pleasure of spending three weeks with the competition team at my daughters dance school during their rehearsals. These young ladies and a young man spend upwards of ten hours a week honing their passion for dance in addition to all their school work and other school related activities. Most of them are honor students at their respective schools, some even made the National Honor Society’s achievement list. God bless them for being dedicated to such an expressive art form.

Tap is one form of dance I have never completely understood. I come from a musical background, I have a fairly eccentric and eclectic taste in music, hell, I can even shuffle, but I have never understood tap…..(Ok, you can stop laughing now, really I can, may not look very pretty but I can)…..Yet it is one of the most popular forms of dance there is. I do know one thing about it though, it is incredibly hard to do. Before my daughter started dancing I saw tap in a much different light. Other than Grover, Hines, the late Sammy Davis Jr. and White Nights anyone? I had not a clue. I get it now and continue to be amazed with how some of these girls can move their feet.

Jr Tap Trio

My Daughter has been part of the dance school for 7 years now and this is her third year on the competition team. This is the reason I have become so enamored with photography. I think I had a Powershot 30x when she first started dancing and once she made the team the upgrades began. From a Nikon D60 to my current horse the Canon 7D. Taking photographs in the dance studio was indeed a challenge and it certainly tested the iso capability of my camera, not something the 7D is known for. I hovered between 1600 and 2000 for all the sessions switching between a 20mm f2.8 and a 24-105 f4 all while trying to keep my shutter speed above 300. I had a 50 1.4 with me but aside from a handful of shots I rarely used it. Teenagers either love pictures or they hate them and I was very worried that some of them would feel awkward with a camera pointed at them at such close range. Maybe it would prepare the new girls for the stage, I thought, for they are stepping into the world of unknowns. The director of the dance school was very helpful in making me feel at ease. As much as I was doing this for me and my experience, I was also doing it for her and this helped put things into a different perspective.

Onto some pictures.

All the dancers on the team are required to take ballet, these are the “Senior” girls working on some technique.

Sr. Ballet

And one of the juniors:

Jr BalletLast year was the first time our school had a competition ballet, I was incredibly proud that my daughter was one of the five girls selected for it. I feel ballet is the purest form of dance, emotional, beautiful, graceful and strength like an ox. The calves on these girls are better than some of the cyclists I know. One of my goals is to photograph a dance troupe professionally but right now I feel lucky to have a daughter heavily involved in dance and a studio director that is kind enough to let me to hone my skills.

My daughter during a momentary pause in the action:

A short respite

Competition ballet group getting some instruction

Comp Ballet

A senior working on a tap routine:

Sr. TapOn stage these girls look and dance like mature adults, I am still in awe of them after every performance, I marvel at the excitement they exude, I have experienced tears of joy, I have shaken my head in amazement, I have felt sorrow when they do not win. Our first competition of the year is in two weeks – NYC here we come!  Good luck!

Flying...Thanks for stopping by, till next time…