Photo of dancer Henry Steele
In the continuing quest to heal my photographic injuries, I’m posting one of my favorite shoots from a year ago in New York with dancer Henry Steele.

Get notified of new Blog PostsIt is difficult to describe the time before a ballet is conceptualized, before it is an idea, because I barely understand it myself. Even talking about it from the murky haze of this place feels dangerous and I feel like I don’t know what I’m saying. I have the knowledge that at some point in the future, I am going to have had this experience with a group of people where I conjured and constructed something from nothing. I’m going to be in the studio day after day, turning myself inside out. I’m going to feel pain. I’m going to feel brilliant. I am going to feel like a failure until finally, there is this thing that exists.

To have the knowledge…to be asked to create something, puts this big empty hole out into space. It is an emptiness that I have committed to fill. And until I have some idea of what that is, it is filled with nothing. The largeness and infinity of nothing gets heavier as the first rehearsal looms closer.

Photo of dancer Henry Steele

There is always this desire to trek into a place that is unknown to me. So how do I head toward the place where I don’t know what it is? I once heard the actress Sally Field in an interview speak about how she prepares for a role and she said the first thing she does is to rub herself raw, stir up her innards. She creates an internal chaos to see where the pieces might fall. She takes an inventory of who she is at that moment and what surprising parts of her can serve her character.

Photo of dancer Henry Steele

That’s where I am right now. It’s a place of such extremes because I am carried forward in the belief that I will get there and something remarkable will happen that will change the way I look in the world, while the whole time strangled by a false clarity that it will be impossible. The whole world is available in this moment. How do I find the perfect millisecond to zero in on and devote myself to? It feels like I’m doing nothing. It feels like I’m trapped in darkness. I feel abandoned by myself and am now feeling my way in the dark.

Photo of dancer Henry Steele

I avoid listening to music. This may seem counterintuitive, but relying on music in development of a dance is such a trap. A whole dance can be made just by following the roadmap in a great piece of music. And beginning an idea from music means just to exploit the thing that another artist already did. There has to be more in the seed that can only be told from my perspective so I’m keeping music out of my ears for now.

Photo of dancer Henry Steele

I focus on everything else. I’m digging through the chaos of myself and choosing what I will open up. Every day it is something different. I draw pictures. I write. I argue with friends. I try to challenge all of my assumptions and ask myself “why?” at every turn. I dream. I fantasize. I look at paintings.

And still the idea is not here yet.

Photo of dancer Henry Steele

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