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 Careers

Between book deals and Under Armour endorsements, her own Barbie doll and a spot at the judges table on NBC's "World of Dance," Misty Copeland has been one of the few ballerinas to break into mainstream pop culture. Now she's conquering the world of cosmetics. Yesterday, Esteé Lauder announced that Copeland is the new spokesmodel for its fragrance, Modern Muse. The name seems fitting, given how her journey to becoming American Ballet Theatre's first black principal woman has inspired so many. She'll front the fragrance's campaign across digital, print, in-store and television advertisements.




The dancer-as-brand-ambassador theme is catching on. Back in ballet's glory days, Suzanne Farrell was the face of L'Air du Temps perfume, while Mikhail Baryshnikov attached his name to not one, but two colognes. After a prolonged dry spell, we're happy to see dancers receiving mainstream visibility again as more companies book them to represent their brands. Here are just a few recent examples:

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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!

 

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