Photographer takes ballet dancers off the stage; portfolio on display at the AGB.

theartsBy Lana Kamaric

October 8, 2014



The Ballerina Project by Rolly Astrom is now showing at the Art Gallery of Burlington for the month of October.

Rolly - Autumn RestIn this photography project Rolly Astrom takes classic ballet dancers and places them in contemporary cityscapes. Each photograph is a portrait that gives you a glimpse of what the dancer is capable of. Astrom’s artist statement reads, “My intent was to showcase the dancer’s grace, beauty, strength, flexibility and lines against a background of local sites.” The Ballerina Project showcases all of these elements while also presenting a portrait of the dancer herself.

Each ballerina is given her own space to work within a different part of the city. In A Stage to Herself we find the ballerina dancing outside of the Performing Art Centre. Shifting the boundaries of dance space, she is taking her craft from the stage and bringing it into the outside world. Another dancer is Stopping Traffic in her bare feet; she turns the city street into her studio, as a lamppost becomes her ballet bar. With each photo we find another public space occupied by a dancer as the world becomes their stage.

Rolly - Stone Dance Astrom was surprised at how collaborative the project became when he began working with the dancers. They would simply “meet up and start wandering” according to Astrom. Together they would agree on a space that worked and transform it into an art piece. The dancers would use their years of ballet experience to work with the space and create beautiful shapes, while he would use his photographic eye to capture each portrait. The dancers use the space around them to shape their poses and become part of the space itself. Poised in the Niche portrays the dancer as a statue preserved in the architecture. While Stone Dance seems to pull the dancer into the natural world around her, sculpted among the rocks her body becomes part of the structure.

Astrom works with digital photography. After taking the photo he manipulates elements of it to create various effects. In Waiting the image has the appearance of being folded over twice as one might find with an old photograph printed from film. This illusion according to Astrom was added to give the sense that it was an abandoned photograph picked up by the viewer. With the blending of dance and photography each image tells us the story of the girl in the photo.

Rolly - Stopping TrafficThe Ballerina Project is Astrom’s first solo exhibition. On October 5th an opening was held in the Fireside Lounge of the AGB, where the pieces are currently on display until the end of the month. Many of Astrom’s supporters attended the opening to congratulate him and celebrate the first exhibition of this project. Guests were also able to meet some of the ballerinas who attended. The exhibition included the dancers’ old ballet shoes piled below the photo Abandoned, showcasing their discarded shoes. The photos range from bold colours to softer palettes and black and white. Each photograph, taking on its own presence while the dancer’s lines move your eyes from image to image.

Rolly -Poised in the NicheAstrom said that he had difficulty choosing which pieces to print and include in the show. To overcome this challenge he decided to include a digital slideshow of the full collection. The slideshow ran on loop for the duration of the opening. Guests were able to see the same dancers in another variety of movements and spaces that offered further clues to their portraits.

I had a chance to speak with Jodie, one of the ballerinas. She was pleased with how the exhibition turned out, “It’s nice to see our form of art combined with photography. I think it will make people appreciate dance more.” This may be true since the combination of the two art forms opens up each one to a wider audience. Working with Astrom, she found it interesting to use aspects of the background in combination with her dance. It is “unlike typical dance photos” which usually consist of a basic backdrop and the dancer smiling while posed. By taking the dancers out of their studios and off the stage Astrom has given them a limitless performance space and offered the viewer a new way to see ballet.

Rolly - Summer Kitchen - JodieSo where does he go from here? “It’s not done,” says Astrom. “I’m going to continue with this as an ongoing series.” Working with Dance Makerz studio, he has taken most of the photos in Burlington but is looking to expand into Hamilton as well. With the number of dance studios in the surrounding area I am sure we will be seeing many more ballerinas taking over the cities before Astrom is through.

Kamaric H&S 1

Lana Kamarić is a contemporary surrealist artist and a self-taught painter. Born in Sarajevo, Bosnia Lana arrived in Canada at the age of five. After moving to Burlington she attended Robert Bateman High school and graduated from York University with a degree in Art History. Lana has worked with the Museums of Burlington, the Art Gallery of Burlington and is currently working as a full-time artist. Lana was a participant in Cirque, the 2014 No Vacancy installation event in the Village Square. Her last show was Art in the Workplace at McMaster Innovation Park.

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2 comments to Photographer takes ballet dancers off the stage; portfolio on display at the AGB.

  • tenni

    Opps! It might help we mortals if there was a time limit for us to correct our

    It would also be helpful if the titles etc. of the images were presented as well.
    Thanks again for this coverage of the arts!

  • tenni

    Thank you Lana and the Burlington Gazette for the lovely, positive coverage of Astrom art practice. The article covers his process very well. It is helpful to see a photographer thematically capture with thought the combination of another art form, community locations and his personal aesthetic approach.

    Now, I would grand to read your words about the fantastic exhibition (Coast to Coast To Coast) at the AGB from its permanent collection!!!!