A Photography MA student at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) will have his work showcased by Leicester’s Curve theatre, in the new year, as part of a UK tour of arts venues running till 2018.
Sean Goldthorpe (pictured above), who graduated in Photography and Video at DMU, was commissioned by People Dancing, the Leicester-based UK development organisation and membership body for participatory dance, to photograph disabled dancers re-creating a series of iconic dance scenes from film.
Sean, assisted by final-year DMU Photography student Oscar Henton, shot a series of thought-provoking takes on great cinematic set-pieces, like Gene Kelly singing in the rain, Billy Elliot watched dancing his heart out by his dad and Moira Shearer playing a young ballerina in The Red Shoes.
A total of 20 classic yet contemporary images supported by Unlimited Impact, will be toured as ‘11 Million Reasons’, a life-affirming exhibition that challenges us to consider and celebrate the energy, creativity and diversity of Deaf and disabled people who dance. The images will be supported by a short film programme.
“11 Million Reasons is an exhibition I believe will reconfigure many people’s perceptions of the capabilities or expectations of Deaf and disabled people who love to dance as part of their enjoyment of everyday life,” said People Dancing’s Producer Louise Wildish.
“Sean has done a brilliant job creating highly artistic, stunningly beautiful images that really capture the magic of how all of us can enjoy and engage with dance.”
Setting all the outside location shots in and around Leicester, Sean, who cites US photographer Gregory Crewdson as a major influence, says he wanted the images to have a cinematic quality. He used a 16×9 format to achieve a wide-screen, set-back feel that would have scope to include a lot of action, yet keep the dancers centre stage.
Speaking at Curve while photographing and filming Leicester’s highly acclaimed contemporary dancer Aakash Odedra for the world premiere of his work ‘Echoes and
I Imagine’, Sean told DMU he took a great deal of time and care to get the set and the lighting absolutely right.
“I didn’t want to have any crazy angles or effects that might detract from the dancers and their amazing ability to get past the physical challenges they face as disabled artists to achieve such high levels of artistic expression and skill,” said Sean.
“I hope people will look at these images and smile, sense what a great time we all had making them and see disabled dancers – and disabled people more generally – in a new and refreshing light.
“I hope 11 Million Reasons will encourage those who see it not to judge disabled people as being in any way different from themselves.”
Sean admits his carefully composed tableaux, which also include key moments from Dirty Dancing, Flash Dance and Black Swan, weren’t all straightforward to shoot. Structuring big groups of lively, young dancers for the Hairspray and High School Musical compositions proved less than a breeze; getting a wheelchair to the top of Bradgate Park for the Julie Andrews’ ‘Hills are Alive’ scene proved a challenge; while the Singing in the Rain shot relied on a local resident coming to the rescue with the loan of a hosepipe.
But Sean is assured it was all well worth it: “During the shoots I was just very focused on making sure everything was technically right. It wasn’t till afterwards that it really dawned on me just how much the project meant to the dancers, how much they were thrilled to be portrayed as genuine artists – I found that deeply moving.”
11 Million Reasons will be shown in the Curve foyer from 1-12 February 2016 as part of the Local Offer Live event. Local Offer is a national service that provides information for young people who are disabled and/or have special educational needs.
Source: De Mountfort University