Dance Photography

Damian Woetzel and Maria Kowroski in Eliot Feld’s The Unanswered Question

photo by Paul Kolnik

About two years ago, at a New York City Ballet winter season performance, I ended up sitting in the viewing box for dancers’ guests and friends after a company member donated his un-used tickets to the box office. I gladly traded in my 3rd ring student rush ticket for the viewing box, which is in the orchestra. Directly to my left was a man who was busy setting up his camera and flipping through the program to review that evening’s cast. I guess he saw me studying the camera – and wondering who he was – because he then smiled and said, “Hi, I’m Paul Kolnik and I take photographs for the company. I hope you don’t mind that I’ll be snapping a lot of photos throughout the evening”. For the next few minutes he showed me his camera and explained that he was photographing the performance because several dancers were making debuts in their roles. Throughout the performance, I heard the clicking of his camera at least a hundred times, which had me guessing exactly which moment of the ballet he was trying to capture. In fact, he watched the entire performance through his camera lens!

Mr. Kolnik was clearly focused on taking the best photographs possible for the company, which is certainly admirable. Since my eyes tend to zip about the stage in an effort to absorb everything, I’m not sure I would be a very good dance photographer. But I really appreciate and admire the people who have the focus and skill to capture dancers on camera. When the monthly issue of Dance Magazine arrives in the mail, or when I receive brochures about upcoming dance performances, I admit that the first thing I do is skim them for photographs. Above is a beautiful photograph taken by Kolnik of Maria Kowroski and Damian Woetzel in Eliot Feld’s The Unanswered Question.

It is worth noting that Kyle Froman, a long-time NYCB corps member, has just released a book called In the Wings, which is filled with photographs that he has taken from backstage at NYCB. I think these behind-the-scenes photos will be just as beautiful and interesting as the photos that Kolnik takes from the audience.

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