Because of its location on the extreme Eastern edge of the EU, Lublin Ballet Association is a point of exchange for students from the Russian classical ballet tradition with those from western schools specializing in more modern dance idioms. Ballet schools from Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and Czech Republic gather in Poland for an international youth ballet meeting, together with the likes of Belgium’s ultra modern Imago Tijl, and Scotland’s 21st Century Dance Academy.
For the western European pupils, the opportunity to work with leading teachers and choreographers from Warsaw, Minsk and Lviv ballet companies, such as Lviv Ballet’s choreographer and soloist Serguei Najenko, and pedagogue Galina Kleshchova, is a unique one. And for the young visiting Slavs, a new world also opens – the students from the Russian tradition are trained intensely in classical ballet, and are incomparably good at it, but they have more limited contact with other genres and contact with the western schools begins to feed their interest in more modern dance idioms. Whether classical or modern, dance is, like photography, a visual art, a language that transcends words and national borders.
The young students take the performances every bit as seriously as adults in professional ballet companies – if anything with even greater concentration and backstage nerves. The professionals after all perform several times a week, whereas for the students a major performance may come round only once a year.
The images look at the moment that the ballet students from different nations lose themselves in the stress of the performance, the preparations and build up, the pain of training and injury, and the nervous waiting in between bouts of intense activity. By the time of the performance the dancers are totally absorbed and unguarded from the camera.
Simon Crofts is a freelance photographer living in Edinburgh, specializing in photography around Russia, Ukraine, Poland, and other former Soviet and East European countries. He originally studied law at Oxford University, and speaks fluent Russian, and moderate Polish.
He regularly travels in the region, both on assignment and self-assigned work, and his clients include magazines as diverse as The Economist/Intelligent Life magazine, Ink Publishing, Yachting World, Znak Publishing, Yachting Monthly, Practical Boat Owner, and The Yacht Report, as well as corporate clients such as The Red Cross, EveryChild, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Royal Denship, Dana Corporation, and Linklaters.
Before his current base in Scotland, he lived in Moscow for 7 years, and Krakow for 6.
More pictures and further details can be found at www.simoncroftsphoto.com
What’s in the bag:
I have two bags: one for my Nikon dSLR and a couple of primes (typically 28mm and 50mm), the other for my Mamiya 7, a bunch of medium format film, and a couple of primes. When I’m indecisive, I take both. When I’m lazy, I take one bag or the other, depending on mood.