Can Dance be Photographed?

Elsewhere has it been proposed,

and herewith it’s re-exposed,

that in the faces of the others,

emotional expressions one discovers.

Investigations of decoding have discovered,

which generations needed theories uncovered,

that the mystery of the emotions here,

lies in the ability of one to gear.

Of particular importance are the context types,

as well as multitudes of prototypes,

that lead one to the interpretation,

that static or dynamic – it’s all an aggregation.

Investigations of the brain have been reported,

and many areas have been purported

to be involved in reading of the mind,

including in the cases of the blind.

STS and mirror systems would unfold

a model worthy of the gold.

No matter if spontaneous or posed,

there’s no need to be opposed;

static or dynamic one could utilise,

one’s eternal dream’ll be realised.

With these rhymes, I completed my Bachelor’s degree – the abstract of my thesis on facial expressions and the use of static and dynamic facial expressions as stimulus material in psychology experiments. Now, what this means in the language of my grandmother (following the instructions by Daryl Bem), this means a comparison between pictures and videos showing people smiling (and other emotions). Back then, I found that there is a difference in what such stimuli measure but that the two aspects are not mutually exclusive but rather complementary.

I have been photographing dance on several occasions (ballet, traditional Bulgarian, and now modern ballet) trying to capture the motion, the tension, the continuity, the choreography, the synchrony, the emotion. In the thousands or hundredths of a second, I’ve tried to capture that which even the human eye misses amidst the myriad of other “which”-s. It is a chaos, a random pattern, a crystalized network. This constant vigilance creates a sense of urgency, a ten-fold urgency compared to that of street photography, even more unpredictable but more gracious, because it had been choreographed – I just didn’t know it.

Many photographers have pondered about this. Richard Avedon is know to have been jumping and dancing together with his models to feel it, to be in synchrony, to mirror. Annie Leibovitz in the TV documentary said that dance cannot be photographed no matter how obsessively one tries to pose it, to look for the geometry, and the grace in movement. Martha Graham fascinated with dance, took controlled photographs of the postures and the floating of the cloths.

But the question is whether dance can be photographed or not: the dance, the emotional aspect of it. Does a photograph elicit the same visceral reaction as the actual dance (or to make things equally removed, as a video recording of the actual dance)? The photograph can capture a heightened moment, the essence of the dance, the geometry; but can it capture the emotion? Can it capture the same emotion or does it capture a different emotion? Why would it be different from the question of portraiture (and yet people take portrait photographs)?

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