As much as dance is a living art, sometimes all the elements of the moment align just right to be captured forever in a photograph.
This can’t be accomplished by just any shutterbug. (Point proven by the many photos I’ve taken of dancers with mouths open, eyes closed, feet turned in.)
No, it takes someone who is not only a skilled photographer, but someone who ALSO knows dance and dancers.
“Timing is everything” can be said about both dance and photography!
After much anticipation, we recently received a copy of the new ballroom dance book Ballroom Dance and Glamour by Jonathan S. Marion.
A familiar face at competitions for over a decade, Jonathan has brought a unique slant to his beautiful collection of ballroom images.
You see, not ONLY is Jonathan a photographer and amateur competitor himself, he is also a PROFESSOR of anthropology.
All these years that you may have seen Jonathan in the ballroom, he’s been studying the culture, social and political habits of our “ballroom tribe” in the field!
To get close to the dancers in their natural habitat, Jonathan has donned Latin pants in place of a safari hat, and been to the most prestigious of dance competitions, on and off the floor.
In these stunning images, Dr. Marion has chronicled hundreds of competitors through pictures, documenting the performance, emotions and grooming habits of ballroom dancers. (Dancers in the Mist!)
Now, in Ballroom Dance and Glamour we see the culmination of all this expertise through a compilation of portraits that highlights the beauty, heart and soul of this world that we all love.
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A Look in the Book
The book is divided into four main sections, showcasing images from each of the four competitive styles, Rhythm, Smooth, Latin, and Standard.
An interesting perspective of the book is that Jonathan’s photos cover a ten year span from May 2002 to September 2013.
Ten years doesn’t seem like much, but seeing the pictures of then and now in chronological order is a reminder that our ballroom world innovates and changes at a tremendous rate.
Not only have styles, costumes and even photo technology changed, but the book threads together the careers and partnerships of dancers. (Oh yeah…they used to dance together!) Within the ten year span, we see the evolution the dance community not only as a whole, but also individual dancers.
For example, 4-time World Smooth Champions, Slawek Sochacki and Marzena Stachura are featured back when they were 10 dancers and more recently as the World Champions they have become.
It’s interesting (and inspiring!), to see the MATURITY of their overall look, technique and even focus through these images. (page 59, page 56)
A case study of partner-changing is seen in the Rhythm section of the book. Ready? This gets complicated-it’s like a ballroom dance FAMILY TREE…stay tuned for the take-away at the end!
First, we’ve got pics of the legendary long-time championship couple Bob Powers and Julia Gorchachova. (amazing shot! page 26)
Then we see dynamic Emmanuel Pierre-Antoine burst onto the scene with Joanna Zacharewicz (page 30). Next (page 31), Jonathan juxtaposes the partner switch- up when Emmanuel brings Julia out of retirement and Joanna goes on to a new pairing with Jose DeCamps. (DeCamps & Zacharewicz eventually become champions, page 35.)
Are you following this on your flowchart?!
Finally, Emmanuel connects with Liana Churilova, (page 36) and they have now become the current World Rhythm Champions. Whew!
My personal take away from this image series:
Great dancers can be great with other great dancers.
But finding the right partner makes a couple EXCEPTIONAL and their partnership INDELIBLE in our memory.
Bob & Julia, Jose & Joanna, Emmanuel and Liana. See? Those names go together like peanut butter and jelly!
In a way, Ballroom Dance and Glamour could be kind of like a ballroom yearbook.
If there was a “Most Likely to Become Famous” category, it might include the shots of favorite “Dancing with the Stars” and “Strictly Come Dancing” celebs shown in their former competitive lives before they were household names.
Jonathan has documented Derek Hough, Mark Ballas, Karina Smirnoff, Cheryl Burke, Kristina Rihanoff, and many more, in both their competitive and pop culture personas. These Before and Afters are a great reminder at the global spotlight the ballroom world has had shined upon it with the advent of reality TV.
Over here at DanceSport Place, we were giddy to see quite a few of our elite video coaches (you know, we only have the Champs, here at DSP!) featured.
Jonathan captions every photo with snippets of behind-the-scenes insight into the dancers, the dance world and even his own journey as a photographer. Dancers fully entrenched in ballroom life as well as readers who are simply dance fans, will find his notes insightful.
Arrival of the Fittest
I did a little research work on my own, looking through the book.
What I observed about the most successful of these couples is we can see that the champions are truly the most “together”. Synchronization is matched, their intensity, their focus, even the most minute details are inline.
On page 65, a shot of Paul Killick and Hanna Karttunen doing a samba walk arm in arm is a great example. From their toes to their smiles, everything is PERFECTLY coordinated. Even for a non-dancer, the championship quality that is captured in this pic is immediately recognizable.
What’s also impressive is to see how much can get packed into a single frame of a moment suspended in time.
In some images, you can literally feel the speed of the movement, the intensity of the emotion and the precision of the technique. A shot of Vaidas Kimelis and Jurga Pupylete (page 76), is one of those. The momentum and power coming off connection practically jumps out from the page. LOVE IT!
Capturing the Living Art
Through his lens, Jonathan crystalizes the glory and glamour of ballroom dancing one moment, one dance, one couple at a time.
In Ballroom Dance and Glamour the fascination that happens on the competition floor is captured through an instant of the serendipitous meeting of movement, expression, costuming, and photography.
Outsiders often wonder why dancers commit so much to their craft. The answer to this “Why” is presented across the pages of Ballroom Dance and Glamour:
For the joy, for the excitement.
For those moments, however fleeting, when bodies and souls merge together so perfectly to create a thing a beauty.
I wonder what Dr. Marion, as an anthropologist, has surmised about his research into the world of dancesport. From this photography collection, I would venture to say he’s found a tribe of people who love harmony, love collaboration, love beauty and love LIFE.
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