Almost any craft should be approached with some level of confidence. For many people confidence comes from years of training and repetition , other lucky individuals just spew confidence naturally. But the confidence that is necessary to perform in front of a crowd is possibly the rarest and most admirable forms to witness.
The Desert Dalings Belly Dancing group had this confidence on full display on Saturday night when they performed in front of the crowd at Burt’s Tiki Lounge in downtown Albuquerque. Their unique blend of traditional belly dancing mixed with modern sensibilities provided lasting entertainment for friends of the performers and unsuspecting patrons alike.
Burt’s is a very familiar venue. It bares the attributes for what you’d expect from any other dive bar; Almost non existent lighting, colorful cast of Patrons scattered throughout the place, a sound check and PA systems woefully out of date and a grittiness that only creatures of the night can really appreciate. The main hook that Burt’s offers as a venue is their communal charm that the bar brings. I’ve never seen them have a cover charge for an event and everyone there seems to be having a good time when there is a performance.
When I’m in photo mode I’m always looking for one thing out of my subjects, and that thing is personality, and there was no shortage of that on display with each performance. Each dancer had a different quality that they brought with them when on stage. Some were more more reserved and methodical with their movements and others had attitude and improvisation flowing through them giving the show a sense of verity.
The key thing to look for in performance photography is moment, which can be difficult especially with the fast paced motion that you get from a performance art like belly dancing. Their entire body is always in play when they dance and it’s easy to miss something incredible and capture something that is unflattering. If you can just nail down timing and framing of your images you can get incredible results but you also have to account for a bit of luck when shooting.
Now let’s not tip toe around the subject, performance lighting generally speaking is terrible. I have yet to shoot a performance where the lighting was perfect and I could do what ever I wanted. Live performance lighting is designed to give things atmosphere and provide a certain tone to patrons, but it’s less kind to the sensors in cameras. If you’re shooting stills at a live performance you’re stuck with high ISO grain, shallow depth of field apertures and motion bluing shutter speeds. None of these things are bad qualities in any ways shape or form (except maybe the grainy ISOs) but it’s unfortunate that you’re stuck with such limiting conditions.
If anything can be said about the Desert Darlings’ Performance it’s that there was no lack of confidence that night. Those ladies got on that stage and owned it and that is something to be admired. It takes a lot to take something you work hard on put it out there for people to see and it takes a significant amount of courage to do so.