(photograph by Lois Greenfield)
A few days ago, after my ballet class at Dance New Amsterdam (DNA), I walked through the small second-floor gallery to see “Celestial Bodies”, an exhibit of dance photographs by Lois Greenfield. The fifteen images show individuals or pairs of dancers suspended in air – never in poses, but rather, caught by Greenfield’s camera at a specific moment as they continually moved. In an interview held at DNA, which you can watch here, Greenfield explains that she is “anti-posing”, preferring that dancers “be free to experiment with movement” as she photographs them. She also explains that she likes to portray dancers as supernatural or other-worldly, which is evident not only in this exhibit, but also in the majority of dance photographs she has taken since the 1970s. Some of the dancers in “Celestial Bodies” hold colorful sheets of fabric that flow gracefully around them, while others hold circular mirrors (or in the case above, jump over a mirror) to show their reflections, creating two different images in one shot.
The photographs are more meaningful after listening to Greenfield’s interview. Although I enjoy the pristine, heavenly quality of her work, I have equal appreciation for dance photographs that capture the human aspect of dancers – the sweat, the bruises, a strained expression, a few stray hairs from a bun. While Greenfield’s photographs make dance look effortless, it’s important to remember that dancers are only human, which isn’t something that always has to be covered up in a photograph.