Kent Dance Network Residency 2016 - Ben Bowles

A few months ago whilst shooting an event for East Kent Mencap, I came across an organisation called Confidance. Facilitator on the day was the passionate and energetic Sarah Turner. She and Director Jo Frater run Confidance across the county to provide dance classes and projects for people with learning disabilities. When I first saw Confidance in full swing, I was bowled over by the sheer joy and enthusiasm of the participants taking part. To me, this illustrates that given the opportunity, engaging with a meaningful activity has multiple benefits for an individual. In addition to running Confidance, Jo runs the Kent Dance Network with the equally awesome Dani Batchelor. The Network was formed with the mission to bring dance companies together and raise the profile of dance in Kent. Making these connections materialised in being asked by to shoot the Kent Dance Network residency at the Beaney in Canterbury.

The Kent Dance Network residency at The Beaney

On the day, there were a number of dance acts that performed with two making a particular impression on me. The first was Motion Alpha. Run by James Middleton, Motion Alpha are a male only dance company that are striving to break boundaries through performance. With the age ranges of the performers between 6 and 33, James and his staff got the balance just right between choreographing a throughly professional performance and ensuring that the process was fun. I'm no expert in dance (2 left feet is being kind!) but the way all members were involved and contributed to the performance was a masterclass in collaboration.

Motion Alpha- breaking boundaries through dance

The other performance that struck a cord was by Confidance. Inspired by the Magna Carta, the group decided what was important to them and chose football celebrations, team work, freedom to make decisions, dancing full bodied and limitless opportunities. The performance was an absolute joy. Cheroegrapher Sarah skillfully managed to bring all the inspirations together into a coherent story with the performers all having their chance to shine. At the end of the performance, the crowd were in raptures!

Confidance- dancing 'full bodied'

In terms of shooting the event. The most tricky part was ensuring I was focused correctly on the fast moving performers. Using the continuous focus setting on the camera helps with this, but you still need to be on your 'A game' to capture the moment. As well as making sure the shots are sharp, my role is to compose the image so they portray the emotion, dexterity and athleticism or the performers. My technique for this revolves around predicting the moves of the performers. Whilst it might mean that you will take more shots than usual, when you nail the photo that ticks all the boxes, it's an amazing feeling.

The photographer's role- capturing the emotion

Overall, the day was an absolute success. The audience were glued, the performers smashed it out of the park and the Beaney was the perfect venue to host the celebration of dance. I feel privileged to have been a part of the day and hope our paths cross again in 2017.

An inspiring day of dance!

If you want to know more about the artists mentioned above, follow on Twitter @jodie_frater @BatchelorDance @sarah1_t @MotionAlpha_DT @confidance_1

Until next time comrades, see you on the flip side


Benjamin X

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