Now Is All There Is: Bodies in Motion at the Hospital Club
Now Is All There Is is a photographic exhibition presented by The Hospital Club and The Royal Ballet portraying the bodies of the dancers of The Royal Ballet in motion.
Rick Guest, the man behind the lens, has captured what he describes as “hardcore” athletes focusing on the strength, balance and power a ballet dancer possesses in the preservation of their craft. The Hospital Club hosts the gallery of pictures in a calm, white room in the centre of Soho.
The clarity and definition of the photographs are exquisite. Principal dancer Edward Watson is featured heavily in the exhibition, his delicate freckles juxtaposed with fiercely prominent muscles. The vulnerability of his skin provides a beautiful contrast to the strength and power that so enthralls Guest. The close-up of Watson’s chest defines masculinity and control, yet the freckled texture of his arm crossed in front of it provides a humanity and balance. Another principal dancer is Zenaida Yanowsky, who is captured in mid-leap, Black Swan-like, with dark, broad wings. The angles of her legs are caught with such precision, yet delicacy. Her leap seems as if it is suspended forever.
An aspect that fascinates in each picture is the glimpse of the dancers’ feet. They stand out in every image and are all bent in typical fashion – you can’t help but be drawn to the creases. The difference in the smoothness of the built-up muscles and those worked, trained feet is mesmerising. A photograph of principal dancer Thiago Soares simply has him holding his bent foot against a thick, toned thigh whilst staring at the camera – and it’s really rather beautiful. Such might rests on those little parts of the body, you almost feel pity.
The standout composition is of soloist Melissa Hamilton. A billowing white dress engulfs the photograph, almost swallowing the en pointe ballerina. One arm elongated forward and the other extended above her head, and there, peeping from the skirt, is her second ballet shoe joining her extended arm in a perfect straight line. It is exquisitely moving to see a body behave with such natural elegance while performing something which, to many, seems impossibly painful.
Guest focuses on contrast, angles and, above all, grace, because the power of their bodies speaks for itself in the sheer muscle definition and quality of physique. What Guest does is to make them human. He evokes their extraordinary strength, yet captures their vulnerability in a subtle and sensitive way. Guest suggests: “They don’t look like athletes because their job makes it look effortless, but the reality is they’re hardcore athletes… they are breathtaking.” And they most certainly are.
Photos: Rick Guest