by Lewis Whittington for The Dance Journal
Philadelphia Dance photographer Bill Hebert was a business major at Temple University headed for the corporate world, but he veered to an artistic track when a friend invited him to a dance performance. He was already interested in sports photography and photojournalism, but soon found himself “shooting dance because I loved the athleticism”.
Hebert became immersed in the specialized field of dance photography and just as much, in the broad range of dance culture. Flash forward ten years and Hebert is presenting BHPhotos Choreography Showcase V on Sunday, September 28th at the Community Education Center as a way to give back to the community. His showcases have been a spotlight on emerging voices in regional dance scene.
I caught up with him, a week before the performances, over coffee on Rittenhouse Square.
More than talking about his method, Hebert is more focused on emerging artists having a fair chance to show their work. “I try to give younger choreographers a chance. People, who maybe are just out of school; or someone who is trying to get their feet wet commercially and get into the scene in NYC or Philly. That was the main reason for doing the showcases”. He admits that it is hard choosing from a field of talented artists, because he doesn’t want anyone to feel left out.
Hebert has photographed Philadelphia’s most celebrated dance companies, but is as much a presence at student shows at area universities. “I’ve been involved with the dance community through photography for a number of years, and the showcase itself started from the idea of wanting to give a spotlight to those dancers and groups that really didn’t get what I felt, is the exposure or the ‘important eyes’ on them.”
Whoever else isn’t looking, Hebert’s lens is focused on the full spectrum of dance in Philadelphia, documenting and illuminating the work of its artists on every level. It requires knowledge of dance, dancers and an intuitive understanding of bodies in motion. Hebert’s photography has in-the-moment immediacy and qualities of portraiture of the whole body speaking. Hebert only touched on his aesthetic approach momentarily.
Hebert (pronounced Ay Bear) is proud of his French heritage and admires the work of 20th century master photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson. “Bresson was all about the decisive photographic moment. I try to capture an essence, freezing something in time, but at the same time conveying to someone viewing it, what it was actually like to be at the performance. More than big leaps and jumps but rather beautiful, intimate moments that happen sometimes,” he explained.
Meanwhile, his showcases are a way to build multi-city dance performance discourse. “I try to get to NYC when I can to be competitive. The travel time makes it hard, not to mention that it can take a whole day just to shoot a dress rehearsal. But through one series called “Current Sessions“, I‘ve gotten to know many talented choreographers.“
He has since included artists from New York to perform in the Showcases to represent another range of styles and new movement trends. “Originally everyone was local, and then in the 3rd year, I brought in Dante Puleio who danced in the Jose Limon Company and found out that he had a Philly connection. The following year I got to know Alexis Convento, who co-founded Current Sessions, a curated performance showcase, and when I saw them, I was blown away. So I asked her to do my showcase. She actually is from Philly and now based in New York. When I was thinking about the 5th year, I knew I wanted to keep the NY influence,” he said.
He is particularly touched and inspired that a work by New York based dancer-choreographer Annmaria Mazzini will be part of Showcase V. It was underwritten by Carole Newman, a close friend of Mazzini’s who died from cancer and to whom the piece is dedicated. Mazzini cited in her program note that she “is honored to join the Philadelphia dance community in support Bill H. an extraordinary talent and friend to dance.”
All the more meaningful because the Showcase this year is Bill’s way to pay tribute to his father and “to celebrate my birthday with something I really love and enjoy. This year with my dad passing away, I thought it would be great to make it a benefit performance that honors him”.
This year’s showcase will feature performances by Annmaria Mazzini (Mazzini Dance Collective); Orion Duckstein; Amy Elise MacMillan; Joe Cotler & Micah Geyer; Tabatha Robinson Scott (Monarch Dance); Charles Tyson Jr (Underground DanceWorks); Lauren Putty White (Putty Dance Project); Diane Sharp-Nachsin (SHARP Dance); Steven Vaughn (Open Category); Allison Jones (Allison Jones Dance) & Roya Carreras.
BHPhotos Choreography Showcase V
Sunday, September 28th with shows at 6pm and 8pm
Community Education Center (CEC), 3500 Lancaster Avenue, Philadelphia
Tickets: $15 General Admission or $12 for Dance Professionals, Students, and Seniors with ID and
can be purchased online at www.danceboxoffice.com or at the venue the day of the show.
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