Documentary photographer Ted Lieverman admits that he knows very little about ballet or even dance in general. So why photograph dancers?
“I was taken by the movement, the combination of grace and power,” he says. “It was a challenge to capture both in a still image, and I wanted to meet that challenge to become a better photographer.” The result is Upstage, Downstage, a photo exhibit at the Watermark in Philadelphia.
Lieverman’s opportunity came when he was asked to join the board of directors of BalletX, Philadelphia’s contemporary ballet company that has been winning national acclaim for its skill and innovation. A full-time lawyer back then, he provided advice and support to the company. In return, for over ten years they let him photograph the rehearsals, classes, and quiet backstage moments.
He also spent time with the dancers of Brian Sanders’ exciting dance company JUNK. “Brian’s approach to dance and performance is very different from ballet. Photographing both companies over the last several years has been instructive, inspiring, and a lot of fun.”
To show the reality of the dance world, Lieverman shot both the performances and the grueling work that went into making those performances possible. About half of the images in the exhibit are on-stage, while the others show dance class, notes with the choreographers, fussing with costumes, and learning the dance pieces. He calls the exhibit “Upstage, Downstage” in memory of the old public TV series Upstairs, Downstairs, which contrasted the life of a wealthy English family with the behind-the-scenes lives of the family’s servants.
Lieverman spent over 30 years as a union lawyer before seriously taking up documentary photography. He has published articles and photos in Global Post, Consortium News, Vietnam Magazine and other publications,
The exhibit will be at the Gallery at The Watermark at Logan Square, Two Franklin Town Boulevard (North of Vine between 17th & 18th Streets), Philadelphia, from October 13 to November 11, open daily 9 am to 7 pm. The Galley will host an open reception on Saturday, October 13, from 2 to 4pm.
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