I wanted to blog this week about my shoot with Emma Powers, a dancer who came to New York over the holidays from Oregon Ballet Theatre to shoot as well as take classes and see some family members in Philly.
Throughout this post series I’ve talked quite a bit about what you want the company director/viewer of your audition images to know about you in the very few seconds they have to look at your images. It’s not just enough to give a sense of your line and body shape, what your facilities are, but that you give a sense of who you are as a dancer, what you can offer and bring to their work/company/choreography.
I think Emma really was able to nail it in our shoot. In particular she was able to make her facial expression and personality shine, through her choices in color/style, and what she brought to the shoot in her manner and being. The shot in particular of a simple passé is one of my favorites this season: it’s simple, delicate, and while it doesn’t express the traditional tricks and leg height it really speaks to her love of her work and her joy in movement.
Quite simply, it’s one of those shots I keep looking at over and over. I really think in Emma’s mannerisms and face she has caught what I used to love about dancing myself. If Emma can do this in a photoshoot, imagine what she could do on stage. Can’t wait to see it!
I sat down with Emma to talk with her about how she prepared for her photoshoot and what her goals are for the next phase of her career.
Can you tell us a little bit about you and your dance background?
I was born and grew up in San Francisco. I can’t remember exactly at what age I started dancing, but I started seriously training when I was 9. I studied at City Ballet School in San Francisco, after which I went on to graduate from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in 2009. So, my training is very classical.
What are you looking for in your next company and how did that factor into the types of images we shot for you?
I am looking for a company that has a strong connection to classical work but also does a lot of contemporary/new work. We decided to shoot a wide variety of photos. There are some in tutus that we made very simple and classical.
I also wanted to change from the vibe, and choose some darker colors and poses that weren’t from the classical syllabus.
What are you trying to say to company directors in the short time they are looking at your images?
I move, I adapt, I am radiant.
What was the most important aspect for you in the preparation of our shoot?
For me, the most important aspect of anything is not to stress out about it too much. I can make myself sick with nerves, but over time I have learned that I simply can’t go there. So, I made sure I was laughing and having fun before the shoot.
How did you choose what to bring to wear to the shoot?
Well, I already had a pretty good idea of what colors and styles of leotards look best on me. For example, I know that a pinched front looks better on me than a square one. When it came time to choose what colors look best on me, I knew that I wanted to look elegant, so I went with lighter, more neutral tones.
I also brought some stronger colors for the more contemporary shots and a tutu for the uber classical ones. Of course, I brought way more leotard choices than just the ones I thought would be “winners”. But I didn’t want to risk not looking my best for the sake of having a lighter bag.
When you are thinking about how to market yourself, why are visuals so important? (as opposed to using older shots and just going out to auditions)?
You only have a split second to make a first impression, so I wanted photos that I thought were golden. I would never want to show anyone anything less than my best self. At the same time, when I look at photos of myself, I really want to see someone I recognize.
As I talked about your facial expression and performance quality, how were you able to bring that to the shoot? Was there something that made it work for you, something you prepared for and thought about, or is it something that is innately brought to all your work?
Using my face is something I try to bring to all my work. I have had a couple of experiences where I was technically more advanced than other girls in my class, but they used their faces so much better than I. I realized that dancing isn’t just about technical attributes, but about becoming alive though the movement.
On the other hand, I knew that I wanted the photos to show who I am, so I had thought about what feeling I wanted to convey. Also, it helped a lot that you and I speak the same language, in terms of enthusiasm and high standards.
Anything else you can think of that might help other dancers in preparing for their shoots? Anything else you might want to say?
First, you can never be over prepared. Second, you only have a moment to make a first impression, so rather than tricks, show how much you love to dance.
Audition Photos Series
This is a post in our series, Everything Dancers Need to Know About Audition Photos. Read the first installment.