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!

Ballet Stars
Ingrid Silva, photographed by Nathan Sayers for Pointe.

This is Pointe's June/July 2017 Cover Story. You can subscribe to the magazine here, or click here to purchase this issue.

Thumb through Ingrid Silva's Instagram and you'll see plenty of beautiful professional photos of her dancing. But her profile feels much less curated than what's usually found online. She's hanging out with her brindle- coat French bulldog, Frida Kahlo. Or she's working with the outreach program Brown Girls Do Ballet. Or she's rehearsing at Dance Theatre of Harlem, where she's been dancing since 2008, leotard and tights on, Afro out. It's the perfect portrait of a modern-day ballerina.

Keep reading... Show less
Views

This week, all eyes are turned towards Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian coastal city hosting the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. But beyond Rio’s tropical beaches and soaring, mountainous views lay its infamous favelas—impoverished urban communities that are nevertheless vibrant with culture. While many of the Olympic athletes’ inspiring stories are coming to light, so has the story of a young Brazilian ballet student, whose commitment to dance is nothing less than extraordinary.

Photo via Google/Beyond the Map

His name is Luis, and he’s one of several people profiled in Google’s Beyond the Map project, an interactive web series that goes deep inside Rio’s favelas. A resident of Complexo do Alemão, a poor neighborhood where ballet is not considered masculine, Luis secretly started taking ballet lessons to avoid being made fun of (he was even afraid to tell his own mother at first). Once word got out, he was relentlessly ridiculed—one schoolmate even tried to stab him. But with his local teacher’s help, he landed a coveted spot at the school of Teatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro.

 

The film below captures Luis’ raw talent and dedication, his face beaming with happiness after finishing a series of pirouettes. It’s an important reminder to appreciate the pure joy ballet brings, and how lucky we are to return to the barre every day. Everyone else may be focused on their favorite Olympic athletes, but we are rooting for Luis!

 

For more news on all things ballet, don't miss a single issue.

Views

Ah, the Olympic ceremonies: When athletes of the world parade with their flags into the international spotlight, when host countries pay tribute to their cultural heritages and when I (without fail) tear up at the beauty of it all. Ballet doesn’t usually play into the Olympic mix as a sport, but the opening and closing ceremonies are a different story. Case in point(e): Sochi, Russia in 2014 and London in 2012.

Sochi

Zakharova and Korsuntsev performing at the Sochi Olympic Games. Photo by Mark Humphrey/AP Photo via ABC News.

Russia’s ballet offering was the longer and more classical of the two. Svetlana Zakharova performed alongside fellow Russian ballet stars, including Ivan Vasiliev and Danila Korsuntsev, in a glittering balletic portrayal of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. When the corps finishes its intricate serpentine patterns, she takes the stage (1:15)—costume glinting, lights flashing—before an audience of millions. If the dancers are nervous, they don’t show it. Zakharova’s unfaltering, delicate grace is the perfect foil to Vasiliev’s knockout manège.

Diana Vishneva also graced the Olympic stage that year in a contemporary number, and Sochi’s closing ceremonies featured the Bolshoi and Mariinsky Ballets coming together for a grand tribute to the Diaghilev era.

London

Bussell partnered by Royal Ballet principals at the London Olympic Games. Photo by Gary Hershorn/Reuters via The Royal Opera House.

Two years earlier, at the Olympic Summer Games in London, British ballerina Darcey Bussell took “firebird” to a whole new level. She came out of retirement for the “Phoenix of the Flame” ballet, the final hurrah (3:03:32) before the extinguishing of the Olympic fire. Look beyond the flashy pyrotechnics; Bussell owns that stage like the legend she is.

Rio

Brazil’s balletic tradition is young compared to Europe’s, but plenty of talented artists have come from the South American nation: Ingrid Silva, Nathalia Arja and Irlan Silva, to name a few. It’s hard to say if Rio’s Opening Ceremonies tomorrow will include any ballet. (Olivier Award-winning choreographer Deborah Colker is onboard to direct the dance sequences.) With or without ballet, we’ll be tuned in. Happy #TBT, and go #TeamUSA!

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

mailbox

Get Pointe Magazine in your inbox