In some ways, dance is remarkable similar to theater, especially musical theater. In other ways, it is remarkably different. I’ve already addressed how to get in to shoot dress rehearsals, general stage shooting, and theater specific tips, so here are tips specific to dance:
Don’t worry about specular highlights on sparkly costumes – dance can have lots of sparkle and shine, and it’s perfectly fine for some of those highlights to be completely blown. Expose for something NOT sparkly and unless the costume is 100% sequins and the bright lights are bringing it ALL out, let the chips fall where they may. (And if that’s your situation, God bless you!) Thankfully my daughter’s dance studio is not into sparkly costumes much.
Anticipate the action Try to catch the movement at it’s fullest extension or most fluid look. This is easiest when you find and watch for a repeated phrasing in the dance.
Anticipate and try to catch swirls and flow in costumes
Be aware of shapes and lines in the individual dancer and in groups Look for them and catch them!
Repeated elements are also common – you can emphasize the pattern my extending it past the margins of the image.
Just like with theater, look for smaller groupings within the large group and highlight them. At the time I shot these dancers, there were two other small groups, one on either side.
Look for repetition with multiple dancers Patterns and repetition often happen in dance, and photos highlighting this can be nice compositions.
Don’t be afraid to catch closeups of hands or feet
Small well timed bursts can be useful. Whenever I anticipate a leap, I do a short burst. In this example, I shot a burst of 4 images as the dancer leapt. Two will be deleted. I personally love the bottom left, thought the top right comes a close second! Don’t overdo it with burst mode or you’ll hate yourself come culling!
Use symmetry Because it has such a nice balance, symmetry is a common element in dance, and I particularly like using a square composition with it.
Find and use reflections and shadows The shiny floors and bright lights can make for some interesting effects, if you can find a way to include them in your compositions.
I’ve had the opportunity to shoot my daughter’s dance company in some unusual locations off site that have been an amazing experience. Some times for shooting dance other than on a stage:
Take advantage of a different vantage point For this shoot at the public library, I chose to take a spot on an upper floor and shoot down for a different look.
Shoot wide Include elements of the space for the dancers and the surrounding area.