Steven McRae | Dancer In The Fast Lane
With photographs by Andrej Uspenski
Andrej Uspenski, a dancer with The Royal Ballet, fills the gaps in his schedule by using his unique position to photograph his colleagues. For most dancers, looking at one photograph of themselves, let alone of book of them, is a task to be avoided, but the dancers of the Company trust Uspenski and for some, this makes the task easier.
Uspenski’s first coffee table book, Dancers, featured photos of many of his fellow dancers and opened a window to glimpse them behind the scenes, rehearsing, preparing and performing. He followed this with a book on one of the Company’s newest signings, Principal Natalia Osipova (see below).
Principal Steven McRae is the subject of this latest book. It’s not the coffee-table design of the first offering, but photography books are expensive to print and ballet can be a hard sell.
McRae’s early life was filled with the thrill of drag racing but he encountered dance at the age of seven, back home in Sydney. McRae introduces this book of photos himself, frequently referencing speed and racing to lay out the milestones of his ballet career so far and his journey from Sydney to London.
McRae talks about the pressures of performing a ballet with little preparation, and his resulting Achilles injury that kept him off-stage for a year. Indeed, he only had limited time to prepare to dance with some of his partners photographed for this book – in some cases just a few days. As he says – “high risk, high adrenaline.”
On stage, McRae says he feels free, but he also speaks of the rehearsal process itself, saying simply, “the rehearsal and preparation that goes into these performances can challenge my love of dance. I am not going to lie, some days are simply tough.” There is one photograph that emphasises this succinctly, but McRae is at the top of his game right now and his love of dance continues to drive him through the tough times.
In terms of the photographs, they are split over 9 ballet productions, from Don Quixote to Sweet Violets, with McRae partnering Iana Salenko and Evgenia Obraztsova as Guest Artists of The Royal Ballet and former Principal Alina Cojocaru, along with current Principals Natalia Osipova and Sarah Lamb.
In what little spare time he has, McRae’s attention has been increasingly focused on the next generation. In November 2013 McRae delivered a masterclass in stage craft, hard work and a good dose of luck at The Royal Academy of Dance (in 2002, at the age of 16, McRae won the gold medal at the Academy’s Genée International Ballet Competition). If you want to know more about the “three-legged stool,” follow the masterclass link. During May this year McRae offered 31 dance tips (one per day) under the hashtag #McRaeDanceTips on twitter and his facebook page, covering subjects such as learning a particular ballet syllabus, how to keep motivated, technique, turnout and dancing BIG. He wrote at length to answer these questions and he’s a big fan of the demi-plié !
The photographs in this book show McRae in rehearsal and performance and once again highlights Uspenski’s considerable skill in capturing moments of art.
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