The instant an airborne dancer triumphs over gravity, or arcs her body into a fall, can reveal a lifetime of work and artistry. It is the task of Georgia-based photographer Richard Calmes to catch these ineffable moments in a photo frame.
Opening August 8, Calmes’ exhibition, “Dance Magic,” will appear for the first time in Georgia after a year-long run at the National Museum of Dance’s “Art in the Foyer” series in Saratoga Springs, New York. The opening begins at 6:30 p.m. at Gwinnett Ballet Theatre’s headquarters in Lawrenceville.
Calmes’ knack for capturing the dynamic and expressive high points of movement may be explained by an early career as a Vietnam combat photographer.
Although he won the Atlanta Press Photographer Association competition in 1972, Calmes focused on his architectural and corporate career until his interest was renewed when he began to photograph his daughter’s dance lessons.
Since his first ballet publicity shoot in 2006, Calmes’ work has appeared in Dance Magazine and The New York Times, among other publications. His website has received more than 40 million visits and he has published three books.
The collection of 20 three- and four-foot photographs are among Calmes’ favorites. They include images shot in both the studio and outdoors, often in deceptively difficult or unusual settings.
“Angel Descending,” for example, required Alvin Ailey dancer Akua Noni Parker to balance on dancer Anthony Burrell’s thighs, then to jump, tossing her skirt, while Burrell hinged backward.
In “Car Hop,” former Georgia Ballet dancer Amanda Farris (now with San Francisco’s Diablo Ballet) is shown leaping over rusted automobiles at Old Car City in North Georgia.
Perhaps Calmes’ greatest contribution has been to make dancers in Atlanta and other areas outside New York more nationally visible. “Art in the Foyer” has also featured respected dance photographers Lois Greenfield and Paul Kolnik; both have made careers in New York, immortalizing dancers from that city’s ballet and contemporary dance elite, as well as the Broadway stage.
Like Greenfield and Kolnik, Calmes has photographed New York-based dancers, such as members of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. But next to their photos, Calmes hangs images of dancers from Georgia, Tennessee and the West Coast, affirming his conviction that “beautiful dancers are found everywhere.”