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Lvov Ballet, Ukraine. Photo © Simon Crofts.

Ballet dancers, Lvov, Ukraine - Simon Crofts, 2009

1 October 2012

Dancing the Night Away is an ongoing personal work about the Russian ballet tradition in Eastern Europe. This picture was taken during a concert of Don Quixote at the Lvov Ballet in Ukraine.

While I love the ballet and am in awe of the dancers’ amazing skills, my real motivation is to look at what makes people tick in countries like Ukraine, and Dancing the Night Away is part of a wider look at society and culture in Eastern Europe. Ballet is a central part of that culture.

Most of my ballet pictures are therefore about dancers’ home lives, their training, pressures backstage during a performance and so on. To appreciate a pirouette, it is probably better to watch the ballet itself rather than look at a picture of it, but sometimes the camera can show us something the eye can’t easily see. And it is also important to show what it is the dancers actually do, so on occasion I photograph the dancing itself, as I did here.

It isn’t particularly easy to capture a moment like this, especially during a performance where you can’t be too close to the performers. You must be absolutely certain that you won’t be in the performers’ way when they make a speedy stage exit, or your welcome backstage will be shortlived. And of course, using a flash during a performance is out of the question.

I have also taken pictures for the project at the Polish National Ballet in Warsaw, the Warsaw Ballet School, Lublin Ballet Association, and Minsk University of Culture in Belarus, and I plan to take more for the ballet series in other cities.

A selection of the Lvov Ballet images appeared as a 12-page photo essay in The Economist’s Intelligent Life. Other images from Dancing the Night Away have appeared in La Repubblica’s D Magazine and Practical Photography.

Simon Crofts is a freelance photographer living in Edinburgh who photographs in Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union. He studied law at Oxford. While working as a lawyer in London he taught himself Russian and moved to Moscow at the time of its transformation from socialism into wild capitalism. Later he became a photographer and lived in Poland for six years, where he met his wife, fellow photographer Sylwia Kowalczyk. His clients, whether in Scotland or abroad, are a wide mixture of editorial, corporate, social and charities.

Photographer since 2003, EPUK member since 2008.

See more work by Simon Crofts

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