No More Shapes

panta rei dans lullaby

Video - Panta Rei Danseteater 'Lullaby'

Norwegian dance company Panta Rei Danseteater, late last year, conducted a little experiment whereby three dance makers created two pieces with the same name based on the same idea, featuring three male dancers and two musicians, to see what the outcome was.

June 2nd, 2016

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by Michelle Lefevre

In the wide world of dance we are used to seeing dance photos to promote shows and tours and, more often than not, those photos seem to involve a lot of stereotypical shapes. Some photographers involved with dance however are choosing to buck that particular trend and try something different in the not so wide world of dance photography.

Nicole Guarino is a professional dancer, currently working with Mark Bruce Company, who moonlights, so to speak, as a photographer. Although Ms Guarino doesn't exclusively photograph dance it does take up large part of portfolio of work.

While working with Scottish Dance Theatre in Dundee she became badly injured and during recovery decided to take up photography.

"In 2010 I ruptured the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) on my right knee and had to have surgery to repair it. The recovery process is slow and I was away from the stage for a whole year. During that time I decided to study photography and like they say, you should always practice with subjects you love.
So, I started taking dance pictures for my own pleasure until the day one of the dancers in the company showed my images to the director (Janet Smith). Suddenly my photos were promoting the company's work at the Edinburgh Fringe. After that people started taking notice of my work and I slowly starting taking photos commercially."

As we all know from a lot of dance promotion material there is a very specific style of image that appears over and over again, perhaps driven by theatres and with a very narrow marketing strategy.

On taking images that a different from the norm Ms Guarino tells us;

It is relative to say that my work "stands out from the crowd". Some might pass by it unnoticed and I know that there are others out there striving for the same goals as me. I do have an advantage of being a dancer myself and understanding movement. So, in every shoot I try to connect to the feeling of the piece or the intention of the dancers and hopefully create something special.
If I am on a shoot for myself I will definitely try to avoid photographing typical dance shapes, mainly because I feel that we have a lot of those images out there and, as a dancer, I believe that there is more to dance than what certain images show.
I am very much interested in the theatre side of dance but I respect and appreciate other views, and with an interesting approach I wouldn't be against those images. I guess when you have a client with a briefing the situation changes slightly, but I will always try to stand true to what I believe and maybe give my own twist to a typical dance image.

Here are a sample of some of Ms Guarino's images with captions written by her.

Northern School of Contemporary Dance


NSCD is based in Leeds. These images had to show both dance and the many aspects of the city that the school is based in.

The first image took us a few attempts to get it right. We had to wait for the red light to come on at a busy crossing in front of the Corn Exchange. Judging through his body language you can see they had to rush every time.


For the second image I wanted to show the green side of the city. I played with exposure time and was blessed with beautiful lighting to create a fairytale atmosphere.


Dancers: (Kyle Lawson and Robyn Byrne; Harriet Irving; Louis Lever)

In the third image we wanted to show strength and lightness at the same time. Louis is a lean male with beautiful lines; we wanted to avoid the stereotypical "jetté" but still show technique.

Scottish Dance Theatre


"Winter, Again" - Scottish Dance Theatre (choreographer: Jo Stromgren/ dancers: Natalie Trewinnard and Maria Hayday)

I was looking to translate the cold nature of the piece and slightly creepy relationship between the characters into an image.


"Under Construction"- Scottish Dance Theatre (dancers Naomi Murray and Toby Fitzgibbons).

Taken at around 8 am in Dundee, this day was colder than it looks! I shot this image in our first attempt, which I am sure the dancers were happy about, as one can imagine the next step from this movement.

Eleesha Drennan Dance


Eleesha's piece is so rich visually that it creates these beautiful "painting-like" moments. The second image really represents the "magical" side of the piece. The above image was taken during their R&D period and it ended up influencing Eleesha to create one of the most memorable moments of the piece.


"Channel Rose"- Eleesha Drennan Dance (dancers: Annamarie Keskinen, Annabeth Berkeley and Kenny Wing Tao Ho)

Verve 2014


This image was part of a body of images that promoted the work from Verve in 2014. The dancers in the company are young and vigorous but we also wanted to show their strong performance skills through this photo.

"Verve 14" (choreographer: Ben Duke/ dancers: Rachael O'neill and Sandro Piccirilli)

Solene Weinachter and Emilia Giudicelli


Commissioned by Solene Weinachter and Emilia Giudicelli, this image was taken in the Highlands in Scotland. We played with the idea of their bodies being hidden sculptures in nature.

[ Nicole Guarino's Website ]

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