kristine domingo . movement from within: a dancer’s soul.

September 5, 2012

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. :)

6 Responses to “kristine domingo . movement from within: a dancer’s soul.”

  1. kimberli nelson says:

    You are amazing…….. this project is awe inspiring. And this woman? OUTSTANDING. I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes, looking at her face in each picture. I feel like I can see into her, through her…. there’s so much emotion in these images….. All I can say is, WOW….

  2. cecilia to says:

    beautiful. profound. inspiring. i love this, susan!

  3. Birgitte says:

    Hi, I just discovered your blog through Floral and Frayed and I must say I absolutely love it. Your photos are amazing and I love your blog design. I will definitely start following you.


  4. Jasmine says:

    Just one word: magic.

    I think helping people to understand the depth and significance of these shoots is so important. So much happens both in camera and out. It’s a much larger experience than many realize. To be able to convey this through this particularly meaningful experience with Kristine: magic.

  5. The shots really look great. Are these edited? They really look awesome. By the way what type of camera did you use? And where was this taken?

  6. mel says:

    Wow, Susan, not only are you an amazing photographer, I was captivated by your writing. To be honest, I found myself scrolling past the photos and focusing only on your narrative. Kristine’s story and your thoughts about your intention behind these shoots really hit home with me, especially in light of the email I sent you last(?) week. Thank you for sharing not only your pics and words, but also for inspiring people like me!