Dancer Rehearsing

Dancer Rehearsing480
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One Essay Response

  1. adoband says:

    In this photograph, “Dance Rehearsing” by Rachel Tanur, the subject is an unnamed dancing man. His eyes are focused, analyzing an object off camera. Perhaps, as in any dance studio, his gaze falls on a reflection of himself on a mirror. The shutter is fast enough to capture a stillness, a witnessing of the shadows on his back, extending onto his leg, composing a line almost perpendicularly to the picture’s frame. Yet, the shutter is slow enough to remind the viewer that time is present; evidenced by the dancer’s blurred hands. They deconstruct the line and lead us to the next movement. Rachel Tanur composes a full body portrait, forty-five degrees from the dancer to avoid obscuring his reflection. One can imagine him moving into the frame and hearing Tanur’s shutter at the raise of his leg. She observes him, observing himself, while we observe him. Her composition allowed for this natural, uninterrupted triple gaze, one that emulates the value of using photography for social and cultural research: an image that encapsulate the ‘peak of nonverbal expression of the human subject’ (Collier 1986).

    Although the geographical location is unspecified, the photographs provides the viewer hints like the deep green plants growing out of the right window, or the thin layers of paint that are naturally chipping away from the cement walls. Both are signs of the humid environment of Central America and the Caribbean. Mixing this observation with the visually immortalized leg and the emphasis on straight toes, the bars in the background, and the ballet shoes, this photograph situates the viewer into the space of a male, Latin American ballet dancer.
    Ballet is traditionally a Wester dance form. Thus, ‘Dance Rehearsing’ is a photograph that serves as evidence of the artistic, imperialist legacy in the post-colonial world region. Additionally, in ballet, the male body has been continuously re-evaluated. From allowing the embodiment of androgynous characters in the early twentieth century to valuing ballet dancers by their athleticism, the male dancer’s masculinity has remained unstable and changeable (Karthas, 2015). Tanur, however, illustrates a single male dancer stripped from his performance clothes and encapsulates his elegance, humbleness, strength, and drive. He dances, for himself, independent of the public gaze and social conscience. She celebrates this with the natural light that is being reflected by the polished floor and invisible mirror – just like a spotlight.

    Moreover, labelling the picture ‘Dance Rehearsing’ and omitting the mention of the specific location illustrates the mundanity of the art practice. It presents as a common expressive action rather than a spectacular art, as it is commonly perceived and encountered.
    I would say that this is the strength of Rachel Tanur’s photography. Her approach is not intrusive. She controls herself and not the environment, and lets the photographic subjects be their own, with their day to day sensibilities, actions, habits, and routines. Tanur makes her work a statement against the fetishizing of the ‘exotic’ as magnificent by presenting this world, perhaps foreign to some, as ordinary.

    Collier, John, and Malcolm Collier. Visual anthropology: Photography as a research method. UNM Press, (1986): 213.

    Karthas, Ilyana. When Ballet Became French: Modern Ballet and the Cultural Politics of France, 1909-1958. McGill-Queen's Press-MQUP, (2015): 246 – 255.