I’m always struck by how unrecognised ballet dancers are once they leave the vacinity of the theatre where they work. Of course, if you hang aound the stage door, you probably know who you want to see and will recognise them, but once those dancers step out into the real world, they largely go about their business completely unnoticed. I once observed a couple stop Carlos Acosta and ask him for directions (which he gave), blithely unaware that thay had asked one of our greatest ballet dancers for directions.
It wasn’t always so. In the days of Margot Fonteyn there would be a veritable scrum as the dancers left the stage door, and Margot would be recognised wherever she went. She was a glamorous, worldwide star.
So I’m fascinated to find Jordan Matter photographing dancers bursting out of their unrecognised state, immediately transforming them into the dancer we know so well, but in an every day setting. Matter believes that although the dancers are going about their daily lives, they do so as dancers – because dance is an ingrained way of life for professionals – and he wants to reflect this exciting refraction in his photography. The dancers volunteer, showing their passion and commitment. When you look at the image of the dancer with the umbrella, have a close look at how hard it’s raining and imagine how slippery the pavement would be. She jumped 96 times ! Without complaint.
One of the reasons that I really want to share Matter’s work with you is because of the magical reaction he gets when photographing on the street. People who know nothing of the elete athlete behind the dancer are amazed by the power and physical transformation. Throwing an arabesque while carrying your shopping isn’t something you see every day !
If people engage with and are fascinated by the dancers without knowing a thing about ballet, it makes the logical next step of seeing what they actually do while dancing, more interesting. It’s not such a giant step into the unknown; and who wants to spend money (sometimes a lot of money) on something they can’t be certain they’ll enjoy when they are already cutting back in other areas ?
Gone are the tutus and stage effects – spotlights, wigs, costumes and scenery. Here they literally burst out of the picture at you going about everyday tasks – shopping, catching a tube, leaving coins for a street musician. Who doesn’t want to dance in the rain at least once in their lives ?
Matter created a short video to capture people’s reactions while he was working. You should take a look! Not only that, but he explains why spontaneity is always best for creativity, and how the “knee jerk reaction” when he asks for permission to photograph is always “no.” So, mostly he doesn’t, with interesting results in the Apple store !
How wonderful to see this happen before your very eyes. Enjoy the gallery of images and as ever, do let me know what you think.