Dance Poetry

1 May 2012 | 7:58 am | Staff Writer

“My hope,” Kate Baker says of her current body of work, “is that La Poezia della Danza will allow anybody to feel what the dancer feels and somehow understand and connect with her dance, her poem.” She has created this series of photographs of dancer and choreographer Venettia Miller as an exploration of the experience of dance as a means of self-expression and also of connecting with the world, as an evocation of what it is like to dance rather than a documentation of someone dancing. “A lot of dance photography can be so static,” Baker explains, “but I want people to be able to walk into the gallery and feel like they're dancing… or maybe that they're imagining that they could be.”

In treating dance as an expressive medium, and invoking other music and poetry as forms of signification through the titles of her works, Baker alludes to the universal and the fundamental through the particular. “One of the things that really struck me when I was talking to Venettia about what I wanted to capture, is that as well as saying she's always loved dance she explained that when she's dancing is the only time she feels truly authentic, and I found that really interesting.” In the attempt to capture something about dancing, Baker's photographs record Miller 'dancing from within', i.e. improvising in response to her environment, rather than with planned choreography or to a particular piece of music.

Baker's essentialist approach extends to the photographic technique used for these works, although a few more parameters are in place. The images are silver-gelatin photography, with both the film and the paper being light-sensitive, and the look and finish of the works are the result of careful testing and experimentation. “I knew what feel I was looking for,” she explains, “and so I spent a lot of time working out how to achieve that, learning how certain things work and, you know, removing some of the variables. But there's still something intangible in film, an element of surprise, because what you capture on film - you can't turn your camera around and look at it like you can with a digital camera - so what you have on film is a mystery until you develop it.”

There seem to be parallels here, between the trained dancer improvising and the trained photographer capturing the improvised moments, and the works turn those technical expertises into an experience that might not otherwise be accessible to the viewer. Again, the emphasis is on the feeling the work offers, which Baker thinks of as “something that comes from you but is bigger than yourself. It's like by doing something you find out everything that you're a part of, the world and you.”

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

It's a sort of approach towards the capital-R Romantic capital-S Sublime, this treatment of movement as an act of meaning-making and the suggestion of different forms of expression as different creative languages, different ways of developing and communicating with the world in and through “pure moments of joy,” as Baker calls the moments she attempts to capture. The individual act is abstracted into universality, a being more than a seeing.

Harrison Galleries, Paddington until 17 May.