The dance floor is not just a place for movement but also a canvas for storytelling. A skilled photographer can capture the essence of a dance performance, using the body’s language to express the music’s rhythm and the emotion of the moment. Enter Graphis Master RJ Muna, an award-winning photographer based in the United States, whose breathtaking work with the “Alonzo King Lines Ballet” has earned him the coveted Platinum Award in Photography 2023. With each click of the camera, he masterfully freezes a moment in time, capturing the arabesques, pirouettes, and grand jetés that tell a story of passion, grace, and beauty. In this blog post, we’ll delve into RJ Muna’s process and learn how he uses his lens to translate the choreographer’s language into stunning visual art. Get ready to be swept away by the magic of dance and the art of photography!
By: RJ Muna
“Creating imagery of a dance company’s upcoming season always brings a handful of issues that must be negotiated. Because of the long lead times for the media in which the images are being used, things like costumes and choreography still need to be finished. There are no staging elements and often no music. Usually, the only thing known is the piece’s general theme and, of course, the dancers. The other constant is the ‘language’ of the choreographer.
“When we all get into the studio, the choreographer, the dancers, and the photographer figure out what we can do with what we have. We start shooting with one dancer on set and all the others watching. The choreographer adjusts the movements, I adjust the lighting, and the rest of the dancers see the tone for the shoot. Very quickly, the dancers understand what we are all going for and begin contributing and having fun.
“We had no costumes at all for this shoot, not even older ones. We did have bolts of fabric that would eventually be used to make the costumes. We began partially wrapping the dancers in the fabric while one dancer threw the remaining material into the air. The dancer on set began to move as if the fabric was their dance partner, and it soon became apparent that we were onto something. They take turns being photographed and throwing material, and we all yell out refinements and new ideas. The dancers begin to work like an orchestra as they see the results, and we are all feeding off of the collective energy.
“We were getting some good shots that day, but when this image came up, the dancers gathered around the monitor, creating more noise than usual. When I walked over to look and saw this one shot, all I could say was, ‘Okay, we’re done.'”
From his studio in San Francisco and various locations worldwide, RJ has won over 150 national and international awards, among them the International Center of Photography’s Infinity Award, a Clio Award, and a Lucie Award. His work has appeared in numerous competitions, including Graphis Photography Annual, American Photography, Lürzer’s Archive 200 Best Ad Photographers, Communication Arts Photography Annual, PDN Photo Annual, and the APA National Awards. RJ’s images have been featured in several industry publications such as Black & White Magazine, Camera Arts Magazine, Communication Arts, Lürzer’s Archive, Photo District News (PDN), and many other international publications. His film work has been featured and screened in many festivals, including Art Basel Switzerland, Dance on Camera Festival, Dance Camera West, and the San Francisco Dance Film Festival.