Dancing through the lens: Photographing the Pacific Festival of Arts

by on Friday, 26 April 2013 Comments

Photographing a dance is never an easy task, photographers have to use a rigid frame to constantly capture moving bodies. Dancers are sometimes close, sometimes far, they sometimes go left, and sometimes right, at times they crouch, and at times they leap. Often, as you confidently press down on the shutter button, the dances suddenly change their moves, and spill out of the frame. Something that happens even more often is that when you press the shutter, you don't get the whole person: you might cut off an arm, a leg, or even a head if you can't anticipate the next movement; this makes pressing the shutter button an exercise in (good or bad) luck. However, this randomness can also bring about unexpected surprises; these blurs created as the dancers move their bodies trace the movements of the dance, and produce photos full of dynamism.

For a novice photographer like myself, capturing these moments imbued with rhythm is obviously harder than hard, so when shooting in the Pacific Festival of Arts, it seemed like the dancers and I were performing our own particular play: "You run I follow". But, because of my love for dancing, even though I failed quite regularly, I felt like my enthusiasm could overcome the difficulties; if I pressed the shutter button a few more times, eventually there would be a beautiful figure captured and retained in a moment of extraordinary luck.

dance14copy.jpgFor the people of Oceania, dance is not only a form of performing art, it's also a part of their culture and life; to dance is to share one's culture. This is probably what made my experience enjoying their performance all the more special; they broadened my horizons, and allowed me to discover the beauty of a different world. No matter if it was the performance on the opening night of the ceremony on the grass football field, or the performances on the "Pacific Stage" on successive dates, they were all breathtaking spectacles. The bodies of the Oceania dancers were like a work of art of sorts: suntanned, powerful, rough, and full of natural unruliness; smooth contours, slender shapes, and fair and delicate skin, are not the standards for beauty here.

With a rhythm brimming with power accompanied by a melody composed of traditional instruments and the voices of singers, these performances were just like the fireworks that were set off every night of the festival, bursting out with glorious vitality, and moving people profoundly. I still remember when I was in front of the dancers, totally absorbed, lost in the continuous action of pressing the shutter button. I could see their hard-earned beads of sweat drip to the floor, and yet they still had a full smile on their faces, without a trace of weariness. Occasionally our eyes would connect and we would smile at each other... these wonderful moments have become the most unforgettable memory in my life.

Watch an excerpt of the Opening Ceremony for the Festival of Pacific Arts

Raining (陳雨君)

人籟論辨月刊前編輯
Ex-editor of Renlai Monthly

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