a Photo Book
by Azlan Ezaddin
Dates, time, venues and
names withheld to protect the identities of innocent ballet dancers involved.
In what seemed like a clandestine rendezvous between master spies (or
is it ballet masters), a package exchanged hands on stage behind a closed
curtain, with strict instructions that it was not to be opened until a
safe distance was reached. The warning was taken to heart and, despite
a strong curiousity, the secret of the contents was guarded with life
and limb until it was well past the state border.
Such was the pricelessness of ELEVEN
that safety precautions of this magnitude were required.
Eleven represents the number of principal dancers at Pacific Northwest
Ballet, and hence "Eleven" is the name of the photo book featuring these
dancers: Patricia Barker, Paul Gibson, Carrie Imler, ARIANA
Lallone, Christophe Maraval, Stanko Milov, Louise Nadeau, Kaori Nakamura,
Jeffrey Stanton, Olivier Wevers and Le Yin.
That "Eleven" is a first-time publishing effort, led by Ariana Lallone
Wevers, is remarkable in that its highly professional layout gives no
clue to that fact. Chic black-and-whites -- reminiscent of film noir --
sparingly interspersed with single names in bold display red against a
white backdrop, imbue the 72-page work of art with a high elegance. It
does not look like the work of first-time publishers. By far.
dancers show off their bodies, parts of their bodies, their faces and
their hair in a variety of stylized poses, both still and in motion --
mostly in designer wear by Mario's but occassionally in studiowear. The
image that most typifies the synthesis of fashion and physical artistry
is one of [STANKO]
Milov in mid-leap, arms outstretched and body bent over flying legs, in
a dark-colored suit with chest exposed; a leaping human bat, swooping
in on prey with more than a touch of classy sex appeal.
The sex appeal is, of course, not limited to one image. It reigns throughout.
Barker with a shoulder exposed in a quartered top to [JEFFREY]
Stanton in unzipped summer pants. From [CARRIE]
Imler in a strapless dress glancing back to[LE]
Yin in nothing but dark, fatigue-like pants. And then there is the image
Nakamura with hands clasped, lips parting coyly and smouldering eyes piercing
directly into the camera.
Mario's fashions range from the boldly classy ([LOUISE]
Nadeau in a light-toned full-length one-piece) to the energetically hip
Gibson in convertible slacks coming apart). The style, especially in black
and white, evokes the glitter of the 20s but there is also a strong contemporary
feel of serendipity --that is such the cool thing these days -- in designed
The greatest credit must go to photographer MARC
von Borstel who has caught the essence of the dancers through fashion
photography in a way that many dance photographers can't. Some try to
capture the dance. Others photograph the dancers themselves, usually in
posed positions. Von Borstel gives us an intimate glimpse of the dancers,
sometimes giving us their faces and sometimes just a torso or a leg but
there is always a sharpness of focus that penetrates the veneer, as if
giving us a privileged voyeuristic look.
And for the most part, von Borstel's images have a sense of what might
have come before and what is about to come with a continuity of action
-- and hence the movement of dance -- implied, even if the subject is
not about dance itself. Intimacy and vibrancy, dancer and dance are caught
in harmony and rhythm by this young photographer. Witness a leaping [CHRISTOPHE]
Maraval, feet pointed, torso exposed and eyes glancing downward. Quiet
confidence and loud expression are merged in one.
There is hardly any text. The images are not captioned. With the dancers
barely recognizable in non-ballet poses and fashion makeup, readers are
drawn in to scrutinize the faces or the bodies to discern identities.
With only white space around each image, the intimacy of the moment becomes
more acute, without the words to interrupt, as if a bold silent moment
shared between reader and dancer.
The only text that is prevalent are the first NAMES
of the dancers in bold red sans-serif characters that not only accentuate
the intimacy (by bringing the informal name so close to the reader) but
also reinforce the vibrancy in stark contrast to the black-and-white images.
"Eleven" is indeed a priceless work of art, made more so by the limited
printing. What makes it precious however is that this was an effort of
love -- and mature responsibility -- by eleven gifted dancers of Pacific
Northwest Ballet, to support and fund a company they obviously care about.
For ordering information, visit the PNB
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