Archive for the ‘Dance’ Category

. . . . . . . .

encinitas, california

An all film photoshoot worthy of a “goodbye” to California from a dancer who loves the ocean.

Model/Dancer: Tiffany Kadani
Hair/Makeup/Wardrobe Styled by: Susan Yee


This session was the first of a new dance series that I am doing, titled Beauty of a Dancer. I already posted my second session in this series with Tara, and I will be shooting a few more this coming month. Again, it’s a bit different in vein of Movement from Within, as this is much more focused on ballet dancers, with some contemporary movement as well. It is more technically focused of the two dance series, but at the same time, I want the beauty and spirit of a dancer to come through — more than the technique. Whereas Movement from Within does not focus on technique whatsoever — instead, it is the encouragement of free, organic movement that comes from deep within a person.

I always love collaborating with Tiffany & I am so excited to finally be sharing these with you. I absolutely love photographing dancers & I can’t wait to see where this project goes!

Styling: Susan Yee


I sat here for some time, trying to figure out what to write about this session. Not because I had nothing to say, but because I wasn’t sure how to formulate my thoughts into a cohesive manner. I could tell you about what a beautiful dancer Tara is (because she is), or I could tell you about my obsession with ballerinas and pointe shoes (give me a camera and put me in front of a ballerina and I’ll be irrationally happy).

Or I could talk about how these images were a lot of things for me.

Growth, because this was the first time I shot a dance session 90% on film. I learned so much doing this session, about the technique of photographing a dancer like this as well as how I want to approach sessions like this in the future.

And this isn’t like my Movement sessions — this was something else entirely.

This was a small seed, planted in the dirt of an idea, about capturing the beauty of a dancer. I started first with Tiffany’s session (a full blog of which is forthcoming) & Tara’s is my second. When I start projects like this, or have ideas, they usually don’t solidify until I’ve gone through and put myself in the thick of it. Had trials and errors. Experienced and seen what I truly wanted.

To be honest, this idea is still a bit like vapors to me. Capturing the beauty of a dancer? Isn’t that supposedly what photographers are supposed to do anyway? Am I offering anything truly new to the dance photography world? I want to believe I am. Deep down, I know I am.

My voice will solidify as I go, my images will hold meaning and beauty in the way that I want them to. It’ll all come in time. Right now, all I can do is create.

Styling: Susan Yee

. . . . . .

This girl rocks it.

Just three for now.

on making movement (& your life) your own.

We all live in shadows.

Of other people,

of expectations from others

– as well as ourselves.

As we get older these shadows become less prominent, because we begin to understand ourselves, and allow ourselves to shine just a little bit brighter.

I think understanding ourselves is one of those hard journeys that will pretty much take our entire lifetime. Really, I don’t think there is a person out there who can say “Yep, I have myself all figured out, there’s no need for soul searching here.” Some may be far closer than others, but I really don’t think anyone has it (or themselves) all figured out every single moment. And if someone claims that they do, I have a natural tendancy to believe that they simply don’t want to dig deep. Cause there’s probably more under that surface.

And I understand that tendency – I mean, it’s scary in there.

Who knows what one may find?? Deep hidden fears? Expectations? Doubts?


We usually start this journey as a teenager. Trying to learn independence while still technically under our parent’s wing, we start to express ourselves in various ways. We rebel. We challenge. We start fighting for things because we need to learn how to stand on our own two feet. This is vital to the growth of a person because this is when we start to hear our own voice.

Of course, this time in a parent’s life is hell. But they probably put their own parents through the same thing once upon a time. ;)

This voice that we begin to hear is usually extremely faint when we’re a teenager.  After growing up and being told what to do, it’s disconcerting to hear another voice deep down within. Especially if that voice is saying something very different than what others are saying.

When we did this session, Elizabeth was towards the end of her senior year in high school. She was on the cusp of a new chapter of her life.

Like anyone at that time in their lives, we look to the future as well as where we are now. Who we were is soon to be gone, as this is the point we gain independence and the power to start following our own paths. The key in following the right path, is following your own path.

Even as adults who have been out of high school for a long time, following our own paths is still a hard thing to do. Going down a well worn path by others is a far easier thing. We know what to expect, we have already seen the results. But the problem with following a path someone else has already done or dictated for you is that you own none of it.

Elizabeth is certainly someone who has grown up with dance all her life. The thing about dance — especially at a young age — is that it’s not always about self-expression. It’s about technique. It’s about looking good. It’s about doing what’s right and proper. Each move you make? It’s not necessarily your own. It’s being critiqued by your instructors, compared by your peers, and constantly being scrutinized – especially by you. The way to get out of this cycle? Is to take charge of your movement. And to take charge is to fuse yourself into every single move. Own it. Own what you love. Own what comes naturally to you. Because then only do you have power.

For Elizabeth, that seemed to be when we combined dance along with singing. Elizabeth expressed to me that she loves to sing, and has a voice identical to Taylor Swift’s (she really does). But she seemed a bit shy about it, like she wasn’t quite ready to announce that to people. After all, most people knew her as a dancer (or at least, that is how I knew of her), so to go in another direction may have felt a bit rebellious and wrong.

But at the same time, like I was saying, to own our movement, to own our lives, we must own up to the things we truly love, and not the things that other people have predetermined for us. Or — even what we have predetermined for ourselves because we think that’s what we should be doing.

I know not everyone feels this way, but I am a person who fully believes in living a life that aligns with our own heart — even if it completely goes against convention, even if others may disagree with it. As long as we are not harming others, as long as we fully understand the choices we are making, we should not be afraid to live the life that we truly want for ourselves. To me, any other life would be a life half-lived.

When we walked away from the session, Elizabeth made the comment that dance felt more like hers again. Dance should always be hers. Her life should always be hers. No one else should dictate it, ever. When you’re a teenager, or even in college, it may be harder to call your own shots because you are still under your parents rule. But that doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t carve out as much of themselves in each part of their lives as possible. It could start with something as simple as owning up to what you love in life — be it dance, be it singing or be it anything else.

We weren’t put on their earth to be robots, to follow others paths, or even follow paths that others have laid out for us. Especially if those paths aren’t aligned with things that we love. Because if we don’t love these things, then why are we doing them?

This is your life —- make your own path — & own it.

. . . . . . . . . . .

past dancers: kristine domingoshannon leith | kyle filley | mathew paul chounlamontry | melissa sanchez | tiffany kadani | emily pepper

on what life gives you, & what you make of it.

Life isn’t always fair, and this is something I think we all know and have heard time and time again over our lives. We  have dreams, aspirations, and plans, and then life throws you a curve ball.

But it’s what you do with that curve ball that matters.

Kristine is someone I’ve known for a few years now, meeting her before I started this project. Earlier this year, she sent me one of the most touching emails I have ever gotten regarding herself, and being a dancer.

She expressed to me that she wanted to be a part of this dance project and proceeded to tell me her story & why.

Her whole life, she grew up dancing. It was in her soul, it was ingrained in her. It was her world. She danced in companies, performed, & taught others. She had aspirations of being a dance instructor and choreographer. She had dreams.

But in her early twenties, she began experiencing physical problems. After collapsing in a rehearsal, ER visits and doctor’s offices, she found that she had exercise induced anaphylaxis, which is basically an allergy to physical activity. For someone who’s life revolved around physical activity, that is devastating news.

So she changed her major and proceeded to move on in her life. She found the love of her life, got married, and started a beautiful family. So many wonderful things, but there is still that part of herself. That dancer’s soul. That she couldn’t access fully anymore. On top of that, one thing she told me was that she could see that her daughter was starting to dance, and she wanted to be able to share this part of herself if her daughter decided to pursue a life of dance. And what better way than to capture it in photographs.

Something I don’t necessarily touch on very much in these blog posts is the process I go through with these dancers before, during and after these sessions. I know when I talk about this project to people, specifically dancers, they think “Oh yes! I would love to get photos of me! And headshots!” or they think “Oh, I’ve done lots of photoshoots! I totally know what to expect!” There’s nothing wrong with thinking that —- but to say it boldly, these sessions are nothing like that. Nothing like a normal dance photo session at all. Even though they may even see the photos, and realize that they are different, they don’t realize why they’re different.

The reason why is because I dig. A lot. These sessions aren’t for people who just want pretty pictures of themselves dancing. These photos aren’t photos that are to show off technique or all the training they’ve done. If anything, these photos are merely a byproduct of something else, and that something else is the entire experience of the session.

These sessions are for people who want to change their life.

That’s a bold statement, I know. How can a dance photo session change their life? There are so very many layers to it, that it’s hard to fully explain in one blog post. Plus, I much rather enjoy telling people in person anyway. But the gist of it is this. I aim to create a space. A space for dancers. To be themselves, to move. I am not here to judge. I am only here to document. And draw out. Because one thing every dancer (and person) can benefit from is being fully themselves, and not being ashamed of it. Not apologizing for it. And owning it.

During Kristine’s session, there were many layers that I believe peeled away. She grieved the fact that she could no longer dance the way she used to. It was a powerful thing, because she never really gave herself the chance to before. But once that grieving process came through and peeled away, something new came up.

& that newness — that layer, was Kristine — here & now.

She blossomed like a flower before me. It was kind of amazing to watch, actually. From my end, I saw that sadness she first had transform into something else, something more powerful. And that something was letting go of the past, the ideas we hold on to, and instead, embracing where we are now.

Once I saw that happened, the quality of her movement completely changed. She danced with purpose, embracing every extension that she felt. This was her, here and now.

On top of that, she told me afterwards that she had borderline agoraphobia, and I was FLOORED. She didn’t like going outside very much, much less running around in fields and dancing in ponds. I was like, WHAT?! She certainly had me fooled! She didn’t show it one bit. When I mentioned that to her, she told me that she told herself ahead of time that she would completely trust me and do what I asked, even if that included going into water, and grass where unknown creatures lurk!

I was amazed, first at her bravery, and secondly at how much she really trusted me. That I think is such a key point of these sessions, full trust. It’s a give and take. In photo sessions in general, there needs to be full trust on both sides, but in these sessions, it is of the upmost importance for the progression of the experience. Without it, I don’t think anything of value would be accomplished. So I am always deeply honored when I do these sessions, because I know full trust is there, and I appreciate that so much.

I was so incredibly proud of Kristine after this shoot, for so many reasons. She broke through barriers, climbed over inner walls, and embraced herself. She took the curveball life gave her and made it into a home run. I watched the whole thing unfold in front of me, through her movement, more than her words. And I’m grateful she chose to share her story with me, and transform her life.

. . . . . . .

Sometimes when I talk to people about this project, they have commented to me: “I wish I was a dancer so I could be a part of your project!” I must say this — while I photograph mostly people who have danced most of their lives, this is not solely what this is all about and who this is for. There is a reason why I title this project the way I do. Movement from Within: a Dancer’s Soul. I fully believe there are people out there — and I also honestly believe it’s the majority of people — who feel compelled to move. To dance. For various reasons, they may not be immersed in it like others are. But it doesn’t mean they don’t want to. I say this because this is exactly what I feel. I completely understand that feeling, because I have the same one myself. That feeling, that desire to move, comes from deep within. It’s a guttural, instinctual thing. As we get older, we may squash it, and think that we are too old, and there’s no use to even try. But let me tell you, that feeling, eats at you. Because you’re not being fully yourself. You’re not letting that part of you out, that dancer’s soul that is waiting anxiously to leap out of you! And that can be destructive, and can eat at other parts of your life.

So I am here to say this. Even if you don’t feel like you are a “dancer,” know that these sessions are for you if you simply feel like you HAVE TO MOVE. When a great song comes on, you can’t help but move your feet. When you watch others dance, you are entranced. You entertain thoughts of taking classes, or maybe even have thought once in your life that you wish you knew how to “dance like that.” You have a dancer’s soul, and you have to let it out.

So let it out. Cause what can happen can only change your life for the better. :)

. . . . . . .

past dancers: alyssa kinnearshannon leith | kyle filley | mathew paul chounlamontry | melissa sanchez | tiffany kadani | emily pepper

If you are interested in a session, please send me an email. :)