The ethnicity in dance photography - working with an African dancer

I met Ola @afreakano through prior dance clients who are in hiphop and African dance.  Ola is a dancer trained in a variety of different techniques and styles, including classical training, but takes heart to dances like Afrobeat and Bata, from his origins in Nigeria, West Africa.   Ola is joining @rejoicediasporadance, a Portland-based contemporary African dance ensemble, for the 2022-2023 season. 

It’s a very stimulating experience working with dancers from different ethnic background.  We discussed the feels we want to get across, the costumes, and the color choices to support our goal.   During the shoot, whenever I proposed a small variation that I felt would look good on camera, I kept asking Ola, “Do you do this in your style of African dance?“ as I want to make sure the movement doesn’t become something else.  Ola helped me understand more about Afrobeat and what they share in common with the broader contemporary dance world.  Dance photography is such an intentional and evolved process, especially for what we do in studio: it is not a capture.  We evolve the movement to make it look good in a still photograph, convey emotions, and also hopefully maintain the authenticity of the dance and the personality of the dancer. It’s a tall order that we strive for in every shoot. 

Here are some shots from our shoot.  More to come!

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