New York City, NY -- You shoot a lot of pictures when you’re shooting dance. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s ballet, or modern dance, or ballroom dance -- every time, you have one frame that’s just perfect. It can be something subtle, like a hand or a foot. But there is always one where everything is just perfect.
Maria Alexandrova, principal dancer of Russias Bolshoi Ballet performs a scene from the contemporary Spanish dancer/choreographer Blanca Li's two woman show called Goddesses & Demonesses during a dress rehearsal before opening night at the City Center in New York on March 30, 2017.
(AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
I suppose that’s why I enjoy shooting it so much -- it’s a nice feeling having captured a perfect shot.
Dancers Carolina Giannini with Tango Inferno perform a tango called Susa during the dress rehearsal before opening night at the Joyce Theater on January 11, 2011 in New York. (AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
But there is another one. You see, I’m the worst dancer in the world. When I was little, my Mom put my sister and me into ballroom dancing lessons. It was a total flop. I liked it, I just couldn’t do it.
Dance competitors warm up during the 2013 Manhattan Amateur Classic on January 18, 2013 at the Chelsea Piers in New York. (AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
In high school, you had to dance to meet girls and I just couldn’t dance. So to see these people, who are the best in the world... I’m kind of envious of anyone who can do this. I wish I could do it, but I can’t, so I’ll do the next best thing -- I’ll take pictures of it.
Dancers with the Paris Opera Ballet perfroms a scene from Suite en blanc during a dress rehearsal July 11, 2012 before opening night at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center Festival. (AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
I got interested in shooting dance years ago, when I took pictures of kids dancing in the public school system. I saw this documentary on television about programs set up in New York City school system for elementary kids to learn ballroom dancing. They picked five schools and they paired up the kids, who had to learn everything -- tango, foxtrot, everything. And that really got me hooked.
Fourth graders Megi Hajderlli and Jose Dominguez from Public School 49 in Queens practice a move, May 17, 2005. I saw a documentary of an NYC school dance program started by a professional ballroom dancer. I shot the classes at a few schools. Although they were all street smart NYC kids, they took their dancing very seriously -- as you can see here. (AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
After that, I talked to a dance photographer at the New York Times and she suggested going to the Joyce Theater. So I started going every now and then, depending on who was performing.
Mikhailovsky Ballet dancers perform in a scene from Giselle during a dress rehearsal November 11, 2014 before opening night of the Mikhailovsky Ballet of St. Petersburg, Russia at the Lincoln Center in New York.
(AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
The bread and butter of a news agency photographer in New York City is the same thing all the time -- politics, finance, the UN. So you need to find something different to get away from that. So over the years, I’ve gotten a few interests like that. The Westminster Dog Show is one. Dance is another.
Darya Vintilova of the Ukraine performs on the Women's Lyra during the 2nd Annual U.S. Aerial Championships May 13, 2016 at the Baruch Performing Arts Center in New York.
(AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
Once I got interested in it, I would look for dance-related things in New York and go to anything that seemed interesting.
A dancer with the company Momix performs a scene from Botanica called Bead Skirt during a dress rehearsal before opening night May 13,2009 at the Joyce Theater in New York. (AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
Like tryouts for 6- and 7-year-olds at the School of American Ballet.
Young ballet dancer Himika Tamamoto,7, stretches her leg during auditions, as boys and girls ages 6 to 7 year old try out for The School of American Ballet Winter Term, in Chinatown, April 16, 2015. All these kids are so cute, they all make a good picture. This little girl was my favorite because of her intense stare. (AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
Or ice dancing.
French Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat are ready to start their Free program of the Ice Dancing competition at the Olympic Ice Center, 18 Feruary 2002 during the XIXth Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. (AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
Dancers from the Dance China NY perform during a dress rehearsal at the New York City Center 23 October 2006, for the show One World : A spectacular Global Celebration Career Transition For Dancers 21st Anniversary Jubilee. (AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
Dancers Luis Dettling and Diane Dale from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada pratice in the lobby before they compete in the Closed Smooth Category during the 1st day of the Arthur Murray International 2012 World Dance-O-Rama in New York on March 21, 2012. (AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
Brittnai performs during the Professional Division Competition at the 5th Annual US Pole Dance Championship April 1, 2017 at the Symphony Space Theater in New York City. / (AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
Robin Williams dancing at the Academy Awards.
Robin Williams performs the song Blame Canada, a song nominated for Best Original Song, during the 72nd Academy Awards 26 March 2000 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. (AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
Eventually I was going to anything that had to do with dancing in some form or another. And usually, whatever it was, it ended up making beautiful pictures. And it was going to be something different that AFP didn’t get on the wire all the time.
Dancers from Parsons Dance perform a scene from Union during a dress rehearsal before opening night of Parsons Dance presents new and celebrated american choreographers at the Joyce Theater January 20, 2016.
(AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
I’ve found that whatever type of dance there is, it all seems to point to ballet. Whether they are dancing modern or tango, they all seem to have the same ballet training to give them those perfect poses. It just all seems to revolve around ballet.
A dancer from the Mikhailovsky Ballet of St. Petersburg, Russia performs a scene from The Flames of Paris during a dress rehearsal at the David H. Koch Theatre on November 14, 2014 in New York, before opening night. (AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
Ballet is my favorite to photograph. I think out of all the dance that you can see, ballet would be the number one. Because it’s just so beautiful.
The Bolshoi Ballets Svetlana Zakharova performs a part from Distant Cries during a dress rehearsal for a one night only Gala performance celebrating the 20th anniversary of Stars of the 21st Century October 18, 2012 at David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. (AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
It doesn’t matter what ballet it is, or what company it is. It’s just beautiful to watch. The men and the women. It’s just aesthetically beautiful.
A dancer from the Ballet De Monterrey in Mexico performs during a dress rehearsal at the New York City Center 23 October 2006, for the show One World : A spectacular Global Celebration Career Transition For Dancers 21st Anniversary Jubilee. (AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
Sometimes it's just a foot.
The shoes of a dancer from the Complexions Contemporary Ballet before she performs a scene from Moon Over Jupiter during the dress rehearsal before opening night at the Joyce Theater in New York on November 16, 2010. (AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
Or the way they arch their back or point their hands.
Dancers from the Royal Ballet perform a scene from The Dream during a dress rehearsal before opening night as The Joyce Theater Foundation presents The Royal Ballet in its first New York appearance since 2004 at the David H. Koch Theater at the Lincoln Center June 23, 2015. (AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
Or just a simple movement.
Dancer Isabella Boylston performs a scene from Nocturne/Etude/Prelude during a dress rehearsal for Daniil Simkins INTENSIO, a program of works by four of the worlds most acclaimed choreographers at the Joyce Theater January 5, 2016 in New York. (AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
And then you have the shows, the outfits. There is just something that sucks you into watching them. They do stuff that no-one else can do. I mean, who can move like that?
Former New York City Ballet principal dancer Wendy Whelan performs a scene from the New York City premiere of Some of a Thousand Wordsduring a dress rehearsal before opening night at the Joyce Theater on February 28, 2017. (AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
Over the years, I’ve witnessed some funny moments. One time I was at the child tryouts for the School of American Ballet. And there was this one little boy who was misbehaving a bit. And the director was there at the time and told him to keep it down, but the kid kept talking. So the director said, “Don’t you want to be a dancer and be in the Nutcracker?” And the kid, without skipping a beat, said, “No, my Mom is making me do this.” Everyone around just smiled at that one.
Maria Anna Foldessy (L), Marcus Foldessy (C) and Lily Ann Talarico (R) of New York City line up during the 6-year-old auditions at the School of American Ballet (SAB) held at the Lincoln Center 10 September 2007. (AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
I have to admit that once I got into it, I decided that maybe my kid would succeed where her old man had failed and put her in ballet class when she was four years old. But I guess she has my genes in that respect because that was as big a flop as me with ballroom dancing. She was having none of it.
Dancers from the Royal Ballet perform a scene from Song of the Earth June 24, 2015 during a dress rehearsal as The Joyce Theater Foundation presents The Royal Ballet in its first New York appearance since 2004 at the David H. Koch Theater at the Lincoln Center. (AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
As I went to more and more of these things, I also got to know a lot of the dancers, which has been a nice benefit. On top of being able to do what they do, they’re also all very interesting people. They all have the same walk, the same medical problems. Dancing, especially the ballet, is very difficult on the body.
Dancers Celine Cassone (L) , James Whiteside (C) and Alexandre Hammoud (R) perform a scene from Island of Memories during a dress rehearsal for Daniil Simkins INTENSIO, a program of works by four of the worlds most acclaimed choreographers at the Joyce Theater January 5, 2016 in New York. Sometimes the picture is not right in front of you.... in this case, it was in the mirrors. (AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
Some of them have careers that are pretty long and some of them burn out pretty quickly.
The Mikhailovsky Ballet dancers perform a scene from Giselle during a dress rehearsal November 11, 2014 before opening night of the Mikhailovsky Ballet of St. Petersburg, Russia for a special two week engagement November 11 23 at the David H. Koch Theatre Lincoln Center in New York. (AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
Of course it’s nice living in New York City. The best of the world come through here. We get the best musicians, the best dancers, the best of everything. It’s always nice to photograph people who are at the top of their game.
Italys Prima Ballerina Assoluta and former American Ballet Theatre principal dancer, Alessandra Ferri and current American Ballet Theatre principal dancer, Herman Cornejo perform a scene from Pavane before opening night at the Joyce Theater March 1, 2016.
(AFP / Timothy A. Clary)
Funnily enough, I don’t like to go and just watch ballet. I need to have a camera with me. It’s hard to sit and watch something once you’ve shot it. You’re just itching to capture those moments that you’re seeing. It’s always been something that I’ve wanted to do. But I can’t do it, so this is the next best thing...
This blog was written with Yana Dlugy in Paris.
Dancers with the Suzanne Farrell Ballet (SFB) perform a scene from Haieff Divertimento during a dress rehearsal on October 19, 2011 before the opening night of the first official New York City season at The Joyce Theater. (AFP / Timothy A. Clary)