Watching a ballerina in motion as she waves her graceful arms and extends her long legs can be really beautiful. Capturing those fluid movements in a photograph can also be artful.
Photographer Mark Sadan’s exhibit at the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame titled The Young Dancer captures the art and grace of the young ballerina Laura. (Laura and her family requested that her last name not be used).
Sadan said he was once described as Degas with a camera. The museum’s bio notes that he is known for his creative photography in dance.
His pictures have been published in USA in Dance Magazine, American Photography, Popular Photography and The New York Times.
Sadan met Laura, who is from Ballston Lake, when he was working on another project at the museum. She was taking classes there and went to a casting call for Sadan’s models. Sadan said the minute he saw her he knew he wanted to photograph her.
`She looked like a dancer,` Sadan said by phone. `She was only 11, but she was already really long-legged and she had a natural ability. She exuded a kind of special quality.`
Acting Director of the Museum Beth Hartle said, `Laura represents what all young ballet dancers are at her age, with her dreams and youth.`
Sadan spent almost three years taking pictures of Laura as she grew, both in inches and in dancing ability. Sadan said she grew almost 5 inches in that time and began dancing with toe shoes.
Sadan lives near New York City, but enjoys coming to Saratoga to work because of its unique dance culture. He said Saratoga has a great tradition not only of horses, but of dance because of the renowned choreographer George Balanchine, the New York City Ballet performing at SPAC every summer and the National Museum of Dance
`Any dancer who lives in the area has the opportunity to see amazing dance through the programs at the museum, at SPAC and at The Egg in Albany,` Sadan said.
Sadan thinks that ballet especially could be very exclusionary. If a dancer doesn’t have the right body type, he or she doesn’t fit in. He said in Saratoga, studios don’t discriminate against dancers who don’t have the ideal body type.
`There is a real opportunity for diversity,` he said.
Many of Sadan’s photographs of Laura are taken right at the museum, with Laura posed next to the big white pillars outside. Sadan said he has always loved the architecture of the museum.
Sadan said he loves to photograph dancers `because of the transcendent beauty of it and the excitement and magic.` He said dancers work really hard and that is important in a culture where kids are sort of lazy.
`I love dance because it is the poetic expression of the human form,` Sadan said.
Sadan likes to watch children dance especially. He said he loves when the children dance in `The Nutcracker` because there is so much excitement on their faces. Sadan’s favorite part of Laura to photograph was her smile.
`I love it when she is enjoying dancing,` he said.
Sadan said Laura and her brother James, who is also a talented ballet dancer, were often silly with each other always trying to mimic moves they had seen in videos. He said these were some of his favorite times to photograph.
Sadan said photographing Laura from when she 11 to 13 was very special because at that age she was not a kid, but not yet a teenager. Sadan said Laura was growing and everything was changing. She was dealing with her growing pains while dancing.
`You are working with the mirror and training the body to respond to your mental thoughts and imagination,` Sadan said.
Laura thinks that having pic-tures of her hung in the National Museum of Dance is `really cool.`
`It was crazy because when I saw the banners I freaked out,` she said. `There I was. I never thought that would happen.`
Sadan and Laura both agreed to sell posters of the photographs and give all the proceeds to the New Orleans Ballet Association Hurricane Relief Fund. Katrina destroyed 12 out of the 14 dance studios in the association. So far, $1,100 has been raised.
Sadan said the message behind this collection of photo-graphs is the beauty of dance and the beauty of a young person growing up.
`This exhibit is about the realization of the dream that so many young girls have and what it represents to them through this talented, creative sense of the person,` Sadan said.
Laura said she always wanted to be a role model for younger dancers. She thinks that it is easy for girls to get discouraged with dance, but she encourages them to stay strong and keep at it.
`If you love it like I do, then maybe someday you could be in the dance museum,` she said.
The National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame is located at 99 South Broadway in Saratoga Springs. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $6.50 for adults, $5 for seniors and $3 for children under 12. The Young Dancer Exhibit runs from May to September. For information, visit www.dancemuseum.org or call 584-2225.“