Meet the Photographer Behind All Those Dance Photos You're Obsessed With
We're on somewhat of a dance photography kick here at DS, so we figured we'd keep it going in a very big way: an exclusive interview with Rachel Neville, the photographer responsible for all those absolutely drool-worthy dance photos on your Instagram feed. We caught up with Neville at PurePoint Financial in NYC, where her new show, "A Command Performance," is up on display (and we highly recommend you check it out).
Dance Spirit: How'd you start your photography career?
Rachel Neville: I was a dancer in Europe, and suffered a finish-your-career type of injury. I went back to Canada to live with my parents and finish high school, and photography was the senior year art class offering, so I took it. And I suddenly realized, "I like this, this could be something." So I took a year off, applied to colleges, and went from there.
DS: What's your dance background?
RN: I was classically trained in Toronto, Canada, where I'm from. I stopped dancing when I was 21.
DS: How does your dance background help you in shoots?
RN: In so, so many ways. I'm also trained to teach, and I really love teaching. Being a dancer allows you special insight when photographing, in that you know what [the dancers] are looking for, and what you should be looking for.
DS: Do you have dancers prepare in any specific way prior to a photoshoot?
RN: I'm really the director on almost all of my shoots. I tell the dancers what to do and wear. Occasionally they prepare things, but really it's just an organic process once on set. As dancers warm up, I help them understand how to pose in front of the camera, because you're trying to make something that looks beautiful in 3-D translate onto a flat screen. It often takes an hour for them to understand twisting, changing their lines, hitting things all at once. So, organically, poses and movements begin to come out of this, and I begin to see what their facility is, what their level is, and what I can and can't push.
If it's a more conceptual shoot, like with Jorge Villarini and the bird, then there's more that goes into it. He watched videos of birds and how they moved, and came into the shoot with specific ideas of how he wanted to move. I often give the dancers the story and emotion I'm envisioning, so they can start to think about it.
Jorge Villarini as "The Bird" (courtesy Rachel Neville)
DS: What are some of your favorite recent shoots?
RN: Any time there's a shoot with a narrative, and the dancers give you a performance that brings you to tears while you photograph—those are my absolute favorites. Being able to communicate with audiences and have those moments is what dance is all about, and I hope that's what I do with my shoots.
One of my favorite shoots was when I worked with Boston Ballet and William Forsythe. It was amazing to get the chance to work with him, because we quickly realized that we see things very similarly. We were finishing each other's sentences, he was on board with every idea, the dancers were incredible to work it, the entire team—I can't say enough about that shoot.
Boston Ballet's Misa Kuranaga and Patrick Yocum in William Forsythe's "Artifact" (courtesy Neville/Boston Ballet)
DS: What's the best advice you have for dancers going to their first photoshoot?
RN: Great question. I have three main pieces of advice:
- Have absolute patience with yourself. Don't expect good shots right away. Sometimes a two or three hour photoshoot yields five to seven good shots. Take some time to learn the skills needed for taking a good photo.
- Try to arrange for your first shoot to be with a dance photographer who truly understands dance. Even if it means you're getting less time with the photographer, it's worth it—the pictures will be worth it.
- As your shoot progresses, don't be afraid to ask your photographer to be involved in the process. Go back to the screen once in a while, look at the photos, fine-tune your poses, and try again if the image isn't working. Be confident, because everyone can get an amazing dance photo—it's just all about the process that goes into it.
What's better than a good dance joke? They're corny, they're punny, and they're exactly what you need to get you through long Nutcracker days. These 10 jokes are guaranteed to put a smile on your face—no matter how much your feet are hurting.
Some might say Charlize Glass' fame kicked off with a single three-letter word. In 2014, Beyoncé shared a video of the then–12-year-old dancer performing to "Yoncé" on Instagram, along with a simple caption: "WOW!"
But by that point, the hip-hop mini had already performed at the MTV Video Music Awards and on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," and won first runner-up with her crew, 8 Flavahz, on "America's Best Dance Crew." And her Queen Bey Insta shout-out wasn't even the pinnacle of her tween career: She earned a spot on The PULSE On Tour as an Elite Protégé for the 2014–2015 season, and performed with Missy Elliott at the Super Bowl XLIX Halftime Show in 2015.
These days, the 16-year-old spends her time touring the country as Brian Friedman's assistant at Radix Dance Convention and blowing up YouTube and Instagram with her class-video cameos. And while the Char Char we fell in love with was a hip-hop cutie pie, the more mature artist we see today is sure to rock the dance world for years to come.
You're obsessed with class videos. We're obsessed with class videos. The passion, energy, and talent showcased in these clips, which give us an insider-y peek at the commercial dance world's hottest classes, are totally irresistible.
But at what point does the phenomenon go from being a good thing to a bad thing for dancers and the dance world? Is the focus on filming distracting from the work dancers are supposed to be doing in class? Are overproduced videos presenting a dangerously misleading picture of the dance world? Is the pressure to be a class video star becoming too much for dancers to handle? These are some of the questions A-list dancer and choreographer Ian Eastwood—no stranger to the class video himself—has been asking on Twitter. And they've sparked a lively, important debate.
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
"So you Think You Can Dance" Season 14 finalists Lex Ishimoto and Taylor Sieve shocked fans at home (at least the ones who hadn't thoroughly scoured their respective Instagrams) during Episode 14, when choreographer Mia Michaels asked if either of them had ever experienced "the kind of love that takes your breath away." They confessed that, yup, they had—with each other. The two met at The Dance Awards in the summer of 2016, where they were each named Senior Best Dancer, and went on to tour with the convention as assistants. Before long—and long before their "SYTYCD" journey—they became a couple.
Take a look at Dance Spirit's exclusive interview where they dish on everything from their favorite dates to the dance moves that give them all the feels.
There's a surprising twist to Regina Willoughby's last season with Columbia City Ballet: It's also her 18-year-old daughter Melina's first season with the company. Regina, 40, will retire from the stage in March, just as her daughter starts her own career as a trainee. But for this one season, they're sharing the stage together.
Yes, we all know dancers are strong. But sometimes it takes a truly epic workout video to remind us JUST HOW INSANELY STRONG they actually are.
Behold, National Ballet of Canada principal Svetlana Lunkina's oh-so-casual pre-class exercise:
Dance Spirit is beyond excited to announce the first round of 2017 Future Star winners! Every year, DS partners with competitions to recognize dancers with exceptional presence and ability. The second round of winners will be featured in our January issue, so stay tuned!