Dance is the most impermanent, fleeting art—which is either a bad thing, if like most modern folks you get your sensory input via recorded media, or a good thing, if you’re on what is increasingly disparaged as a retro-Luddite Zen trip of living in the real world, in real time. Being a whole-body expression (including the brain), dance is notoriously resistant to being caught on tape, film, what have you. A pin can be stuck through any butterfly and you’ll have something left of the original, but it won’t be moving—and without motion, it’s not dance, is it?
All the more credit then to artsy glamour photographer Jerry Metellus for pulling off the seemingly impossible, evidenced in his wryly titled Moshion exhibit currently at the Sahara West Library. Given how much time he spends snapping shots of professional fashion models whose job skills include the ability to hold completely still, it’s impressive to see how he captures Nevada Ballet Theatre’s star dancers not just in motion, but also dangerously close to kinetically exploding right out of the photos. Granted, Metellus has the necessary gear to pull off that trick—live shots of ballet performances are always hampered by the inability to use flash, whereas Metellus obviously has an all-out lighting rig that’s worth more than most people’s cars. But it takes more than just gear to get photos like these. Perhaps it’s the combination of his own background as a performer plus the rather, um, room-filling personality he exhibited at the show’s opening reception. Whatever the psychic weaponry involved, it’s clear that he was on his dancer models’ wavelength.
Which in many ways is the best aspect of the Moshion show. Metellus succeeds not just at capturing the sheer physicality of the NBT dancers, but their personalities as well. It’s a measure of the level that this company has achieved that they’re not just getting through the increasing technical demands of artistic director Bruce Steivel and his guest choreographers, but they’re also more than capable of making the pieces their own—the recent Don Quixote production was a textbook example of how much variety can be injected into a story that’s long on charm but short on plot (or even sense), depending on what the different casts bring to it. Long-time NBT fans will appreciate the way Metellus captures, for example, soloist Cathy Colbert’s slyly elegant energy, combined in one memorable shot with Rebecca Brimhall’s smoldering intensity. There are equal amounts of power in both Jared Hunt’s and Grigori Arakelyan’s elongated skyward leaps, but Metellus effectively captures the day-and-night difference between the two men. These shots, and those of the other NBT stars, aren’t anonymous; Metellus couldn’t have made them more authentic if he had managed to strap the dancers themselves to the gallery walls.
Of course, nothing compares to going to the actual flesh-and-blood performance. That’s where dance time begins and ends. But to the degree that photography can capture a fleeting moment of that world, Jerry Metellus’ Moshion shots are as close to a true time machine as we’re likely to get.
Through January 15, 2008
Sahara West Library, 507-3630