5 Frames… Of ballet on film shot on Kodak Portra 800 (120 Format / EI 800 / Yashica 635 – by Lisa Cho

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Ballet on Film’ is an on-going collaboration with Honolulu Classical Ballet and artistic director Romi Beppu. It is an exploration into the rich hues, spirited movements and magical artistry that is ballet in Hawaii. Instead of focusing on the performance on stage, much of the visual story revolves around the in-between moments during rehearsal – all the little details that are woven together to create the final show.

Photographic film is the perfect medium to capture ballet’s elegance. Two art forms that may seem distinctly different at first glance, find shared experiences in their creative process and how an idea weaves its way through the initial stages ultimately to its crescendo. The countless hours spent bending, twirling, mastering the exact placement of one’s figure in ballet is mirrored in the attention to detail, editing, reviewing and obsession that is film photography.

Each frame of ‘Ballet on Film’ has and will continue to be captured on Kodak Portra 800 with my Yashica 635.

Bodies in Motion

“Onstage, bodies in motion. Love the light hitting the floor and the coordination of the team – the coming together. Dancers have energy radiating through their feet and hands. I also like the imperfection of the lines and the ‘rehearsal’ feel of this one.” — Romi

“I like that your hand is the first in the correct position followed closely by the other artistic directors then the students. The progression of teachers to students.” — Lisa


“Gorgeous shot of Aya with one of the students. Dim, but it gives a soft quality and you just know that the care is there and it is genuine. Background girls preparing gives that feeling of concentration before the performance – that very special quiet time.” — Romi

My favorite part of the project is a section called “Letters.” These are insightful excerpts from emails or “letters” exchanged between Romi and I, which you see as quotes below the photos below. I find it fascinating to hear what viewers think and feel when they see the art.

What resonates with them and why? In this case, it was particularly special to hear from my collaborator and when I read her notes I was very moved. They were so beautifully written and full of the emotions I had difficulty putting into words. “Letters” has become an integral part of the project where we can delve deeper into the collaboration of dance and photography, and also our collaboration as artists.

~ Lisa

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This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.

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3 thoughts on “5 Frames… Of ballet on film shot on Kodak Portra 800 (120 Format / EI 800 / Yashica 635 – by Lisa Cho”

  1. Love that Portra 800 “look”. By far my favourite film, but I had to stop shooting it with my recent separation/impending divorce, it was just too expensive (back to Kodak Gold 200 for me!)

  2. One question Lisa, and a suggestion… two of the shots are treated very differently in regard to the blacks from the others. To my eye the final shot of Aya (lovely composition btw – very Degas) would benefit greatly if the curves were adjusted so the background went to black and the reds were made richer. Same to a lesser degree in the shot of the young ballerina in front of the ropes. You speak of care in editing, so perhaps you are planning a couple of different looks for the entire series. I think that can work, but in a series of five frames to my eye the difference is distracting and the reasons for it puzzled me. Something to think about as the series develops perhaps. Cheers.


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