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Dance Theater

Dance Theater is generally the highest level at a dance school. They number all the other levels. Don’t ask me why it doesn’t have the next highest number because, well, I don’t know.

For the past couple of years I have been fortunate to photograph the DT level at Jacksonville Centre of the Arts in Jacksonville, FL. If you think it’s play, it’s not. It is a lot of work. But it is also a joy and a privilege to work with talented students and instructors who truly love what they do.

We lit things differently this year. Kezia Rolle, the Executive Director of JCA, wanted more dramatic lighting. So I designed and tested an approach based on an example she provided.

The original design was high contrast, split lighting, with the background fading to black. Like a light sink black.

I confess that I underestimated the effects of 40′ worth of mirror on my lighting setup. Even though I covered as much as I could with a black cloth, and lit the dancers with gridded strip boxes that emitted just a sliver of light, light still found its way all the way to the back of the room. Rut-ro.

The lighting on the dancers was fine; it was that background that was the issue. My plans on it fading to black were dashed. Even though this can be accomplished in post production, I strive to present as close to a final rendition as possible while on location so that the instructors can accurately evaluate the images. But that mirror kept pumping light back there no matter how I gridded and/or flagged my lighting.

It turns out that my angst was for naught. I love that background. I’m glad it stayed. And you know, controlling it in post and controlling it in camera is splitting hairs. Who cares? Who will know? The instructors were able to evaluate the technical aspects of the dance poses; they had to “trust me” on the final image appearance. Not ideal, but that was the hand that was dealt.

As an example of our efforts, I offer Kristen, doing her (pointe) thing:

© Donald J. Fadel, Jr. |

Lots of wonderful images. Lots more to share.



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