London Kestrel
Shooting, writing, hustling.
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Documenting the experience.

Documenting the photography experience

So, how does a ballerina drink coffee?

With a lot of flexibility and creativity is the answer, and usually in the middle of the road or hanging off a lamp post in weird positions…

I’ve been shooting breakers for a while and wanted to try something different. Variety is the spice of life, especially when it comes to dance photography. 

I knew no ballerinas so reached out to a breaking group who put me in touch with the dancers below - and yes, that's how they drink coffee, everyday!

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Isabelle and Kana

Ballerinas with a caffeine addiction.

The time to escape the ghetto gangster world of breaking and enter the la di da universe of elegance and poise was upon me…

We met at a small photography studio in Deptford that way too tiny to contain the long graceful jumps and suave flows of movement that these two dancers brought to the shoot. Ideally I needed a studio twice as big, but in London on a budget you have to work with your limitation set. I hate limitations - it’s like eating humble pie! I hate eating humble pie too!

Still I think the shots came out pretty well and we even played around with low-key lighting (my big weakness) and things were starting to click, having a modelling light that works is a big help - never had that before! I usually book the cheapest studios I can find - often that means shooting with gear that’s sub-optimal! Even on this shoot we went through a few studio lights that just didn’t switch on. Lord - please give me £2bn and a hug! And my own photography studio!

Post-studio we decided to grab a coffee and chill. The engine in my brain decided to rev about mixing the coffee and dance, and started to think about mixing coffee and ballet. The idea of “coffee-ballet” was born! I had one or two ideas to kick start the process, and then left the two to come up with some cool ideas. They did not fail. They bought awesomeness to the table!

At the end of the street-shoot we started doing smoke photography. The wind blew smoke that went into a big nearby building, and set off the the fire alarm. I ran straight into the building to alert security about what happened, but fire-engines and the works turned up, people were being evacuated from the building, and I had the heads of the building to talk to. Not the smoothest end to a day but they were super cool about it, and gave us permission to continue with the shoot. But I was like - nope - too much excitement for one day! Time to say sayonara and hit the pub for a pint!

So what do the two ballerinas that have a fetish for drinking coffee in weird poses think about dance? Let’s find out!

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Kana

I still remember my first ballet class, at the age of five, in the Japanese countryside. My honest impression as a kid, it was not as exciting as expected doing the same movements, again and again.

However, I did like looking pretty and looking like a princess when dancing in my tutu. As the years passed all the repetitive training became routine, and my dream of becoming a ballerina was within my grasp.

Sadly, that dream was crushed after suffering a serious injury on my right knee. As a teenager that made me think how I can make dance a lifelong hobby. Ballet was still my foundation when it comes to dance. The trainings and experiences I had as a little ballerina, gave me strength and confidence to try other styles.

At university, I did jazz, contemporary, musical theatre and even competed as a part of university dance society. Living in London and meeting people with different dance backgrounds, I also began getting more and more into underground / street dance. I still enjoy ballet, as I feel strength in going back to my foundations – standing in front of the mirror assessing every single part of my body from head to toe trying to be a perfect ballerina, and being a part of fairytale on stage.

After the injury, I preferred to concentrate on creating my original stories – such as a freestyle in a club! I love telling people a stories with the movements that my body flows to!

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Isabelle

1. Dance is a sport. Kana and I both come from a classical dance background – abs, abs and abs!

2. Dance is an art. Limitless in its creation and boundless in its freedom. We enjoy choreographing; especially exploring possibilities within a group of dancers. However, whether its moving to music that moves you in a quiet room or performing a piece in front of an audience, the body is a versatile paintbrush using the the floor as its canvas.

3. Dance is a method of communication. I find dance a complementary visual aid to music. Music personified. Our goal as dancers is to convey a message through our dancing, whether to provoke thought on a subject or to instill an emotion. It is pure excitement knowing that you’ve successfully achieved your goal.

4. Dance is our journey. We both started off as classical ballerinas striving to become professional dancers in a harsh environment. This has played its part in shaping our personalities and values today. As Kana suffered a knee injury and I thought of career longevity, we both turned to dance as a feel-good hobby and a form of exercise instead of pursuing it as a career choice. Years later, we competed heavily through university and now we use dance to as a method of storytelling. Even as we venture into working adult life now, we dance because we love it so – and our story with dance won’t end here!

And finally, though I climb and practice Wing Chun, I'm about as flexible as a board! So I thought I would pick Isabelle's brain of what it takes to get flexible. Here are her thoughts:

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Flexibility

Never let anyone tell you that you can’t develop your flexibility. Once you’ve accepted that anyone can be flexible, it is persistence and time! Initially, its best to stretch when you’re warm because your muscles are more relaxed eg after a run or equivalent. Simple stretches like touching your toes and sitting in the best split position you can against a wall is my method of getting and maintaining my flexibility.
 
Stretching with a partner is also helpful, it's always more motivating when you’ve got a friend to do things with. There are loads of partner stretches that you could do together as well.
 
My mottos are:
 
1. If it doesn’t hurt you’re not doing enough
 
2. Breathe!

And there you have it folks - hope you enjoyed the write-up! If you have any questions, or got skills and fancy a photoshoot - please drop a comment or contact me on londonkestrelguy@gmail.com.

Also be sure to add me on instagram to keep up with my latest photos: @londonkestrel

Peace.