This New Web Doc on Dance Photographer Omar Z Robles Will Give You Serious Instagram #Inspo

A scene from "Pointe of Focus." Photo Courtesy SmugMug Films.

Chances are, you've seen (and "liked") photographer Omar Z Robles' beautiful shots of ballet dancers on social media. Rather than clean and tidy studio photos, his work captures dancers ("the ultimate subject," he says) outside and all over the world, often on vibrant city streets. In Pointe of Focus, a short web documentary from SmugMug Films, director Anton Lorimer goes behind the scenes with Robles during a recent trip to Rio de Janeiro. The doc follows the photographer as he scouts locations in Rio's historical districts and favelas, and directs local Brazilian dancers through the shoot. And these ballerinas are troopers, leaping over concrete, turning over cobblestones or balancing in rain-soaked pointe shoes to achieve the perfect shot.

"Putting them in an environment that's familiar, I think it strips away the barrier that comes with a studio or stage, and really shows how exceptional they are," Robles says about shooting dancers in public spaces. Learn more about this in-demand dance photographer in the nine-minute film below—you'll be sure to get some major Instagram inspiration!

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Boston Ballet's Kathleen Breen Combes, María Álvarez and Dawn Atkins. Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Jacob's Pillow.

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Alexandra MacDonald (front row, third from left) didn't win a medal at the Genée International Ballet Competition, but says she came home inspired and newly motivated by the people she met there. Photo Courtesy Genée IBC.

Ballet competitions are an exciting part of any dancer's career. Yet while scholarships, prize money, job offers and the prestige that comes with winning a medal are compelling incentives to participate in one, they're not the only benefits. In fact, many dancers who go home empty-handed still look fondly on the experience and go on to become successful professionals.

This week, the 2019 Genée International Ballet Competition kicks off in Toronto. From August 20-29, over 50 dancers, ages 15–19 and trained in the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus, will perform three solos in the hopes of winning a medal and a $10,000 cash prize. Many past medalists have gone on to illustrious careers—but so have those who didn't win anything. We spoke with three Genée alumni now dancing professionally who know what it's like not to place. Read on to find out why they deem their comp experiences a success, and how you can make the most of yours—whether you win or not.

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Skylar Brandt and Josephine Lee. Screenshot Courtesy Lee.

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Courtesy Chiara Valle

Chiara Valle is just one of many dancers heading back to the studio this fall as companies ramp up for the season. But her journey back has been far more difficult than most.

Valle has been a trainee at The Washington Ballet since 2016, starting at the same time as artistic director Julie Kent. But only a few months into her first season there, she started experiencing excruciating pain high up in her femur. "It felt like someone was stabbing me 24/7," she says. Sometimes at night, the pain got so bad that her roommates would bring her dinner to the bathtub.

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