A ballerina visits: Claire Kretzschmar

May 5, 2020

My wife, Beverly, and I love dance and go to performances by companies that range from classical – the New York City Ballet and the American Ballet Theater – to modern companies such as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, David Parsons Dance, Paul Taylor, Momix, Pilobolus and others. Included are Broadway musicals with dance, and a wide range of styles from all over the world that perform at the Joyce Theater a few blocks from our Flatiron District home. Our enjoyment has been interrupted by a pandemic caused by a microscopic menace; despite that our enthusiasm will survive.

Since the beginning, I have made pictures of dancers, both in the studio and underwater. They remain among my favorite subjects as I love to work with them, challenging ourselves to create imagery new to our eyes. During performances I use binoculars and make notes, hoping to find dancers with whom I would hope to collaborate . This last season we saw Claire Kretzschmar of the New York City Ballet, a beautiful dancer; her work was inspirational.

I wrote her, explaining that I was not interested in creating the usual classical ballet imagery but rather something new and different and went on to explain my “vision.” She responded quickly with, “That’s right up my alley.” We set a date.

These images are from our first shoot.

Claire Kretzschmar was born in Glendale, Arizona and began her dance training at the Academy of Dance Arts in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She later studied at the Wake Forest Community Ballet and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. From there, she studied at the School of American Ballet (SAB), the official school of New York City Ballet.

She became an apprenticeship with NYCB and in August of 2011 she joined the company. In 2018 she was promoted to soloist.

I asked her a number of things about her work, her art…….

“The ability to dance is a gift,” she said. “I love to dance and have grown to love it even more during my years in a professional company. I dance primarily to bless other people; to lift audiences who long to see good art; for children who aspire to be where I am one day; for my family who spent countless hours helping me to cultivate this talent; and ultimately, for the divine gift-giver who breathed life into my body.”

“I feel energy constantly filling my body and meeting the music at the same time. On a really good day, I feel that my body and the music (or silence if that is the case) are one, and the energies between them are being fused together to make something special. I usually feel very light on these days. On other days, I feel more tension in my body in order to meet the demands of choreography and a determination to relieve some of that tension as I grow in the dance.”

“In many ways, I think dance is one of the fullest expressions of an individual. You can explore and reveal both the physical and the spiritual elements of yourself – your whole self. The practice of dance also encourages valuable characteristics like discipline, dedication, courage, authenticity, strength, grace and an appreciation of beauty. Dance is all of these things, and I’m grateful that it has laid a beautiful foundation in my being.”

As a photographer, my challenge with every dancer, especially those who are classically trained, is to direct, prompt and encourage them to shed their dancer selves (i.e. classical balletic form) and replace it with something more “modern.”

I even use anti-ballet concepts; I communicate that I want to see movements that are “contorted, distorted, strange, unusual, peculiar and bizarre.” For such disciplined artists that can be very tough.

She got it! It was such a rich creative experience working with her.

We feel terribly for all dancers who, because of COVID-19, cannot join their companies and cannot perform. It’s an awful time.