Today we’re having a chat with Leon Poulton, freelance professional dancer currently working with Ballet Boyz and semi professional photographer. Leon studied Dance Theatre at Laban and graduated in 2009 with a 1st Class honours degree. He then joined Ballet Boyz and participated to a number of workshops and projects including BalletBoyz Productions’ BalletBoyz: The Rite of Spring for BBC3.
You are part of what Billy Trevitt and Michael Nunn – the founders of Ballet Boyz - call the “second generation”/ Ballet Boyz 2, what do you think define your generation? What makes you different from what the Ballet Boyz were when they started back in 1999?
I'd describe our generation as young, vibrant and daring. And what makes us different is that there are a lot more of us to test those boundaries that Michael and Billy started in 1999.
What motivated you to join Ballet Boyz?
I took part in a BalletBoyz education workshop led by Michael and Billy when I was in college and from then loved the work of BalletBoyz and wanted to work with them so I graduated from Laban in 2009 and auditioned for the BalletBoyz' new company 'The Talent'.
Can you tell us more about the audition process and what Michael and Billy are looking for in their new dancers?
The audition is intensive and lasts for a whole weekend. I don't know what Michael and Billy look for but I assume it's someone they can connect with in the studio and has something to bring to the company.
What is your favourite memory with the company?
My favourite memory has to be at Martha's Vineyard, USA rehearsing, creating and developing material with the company in such a unique studio which was so close to the beach. Amazing!
What is a typical day like for you?
A typical day for me with BalletBoyz is a ballet class in the morning usually 10am, then create/rehearse (depending on how far were into the season) in the afternoon till 6pm.
When did you first become interested in photography?
I first became interested in photography when I was quite young but never really pursued it, I wanted to be a graphic designer for a while in school. I became hooked on photography when I joined the BalletBoyz because we were touring to all these different and amazing places so I wanted to document it.
What sparked your interest in dance photography?
What sparked my interest in dance photography was when I joined BalletBoyz, I was immediately being filmed and photographed and featured in dance films which often appeared in our show. I then started considering the possibility of being a dance photographer between/during contracts and started to self teach myself as I came into new experiences.
Of all the pictures you've taken so far, which one is your favourite? Why?
Thats a toughie... I think my favourite dance photograph is from a recent shoot which is just being released now of Isabel Slingerland, a friend of mine which we took in the studio, this image I really feel I captured a great dynamic and range of a beautiful dancer. But my overall favourite image(s) has to be some of the ones I took in Ethiopia because they have much deeper meaning and memories attached to them.
What’s your approach to taking dance photos?
I think my approach to dance photography is to explore... find your own style (but not being afraid to be inspired by other photographers) and work with a wide range of dancers/people.
What camera do you use?
Currently I'm using a HDSLR Canon 7d
Do you feel like your experience as a dancer has helped you to better capture movement and know when a great shot is coming?
I feel my experiences and my studies have directly influenced my dance photography because I understand my subjects practice and their bodies more than an average photographer, therefore I can inspire and influence a dancer and their movement. Also I have been both sides of the camera so I understand the difficulties faced being in front of the lens.
This leads us to our next question. Do you have tips for our readers who would love to take action shots of their friends or favourite dancers?
Pick up a camera and just start photographing anything and everything. You'll love it and find your feet from there.
What about dancers, any tips on how they can prepare for a photoshoot?
Perhaps prepare some movements that you would like to be photographed and be inspired by whatever you can find online (googles a great place to start). Ultimately a good photographer should make you feel like its a collaboration and make you comfortable and inspired to create movement at the shoot.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time? Is photography something you’d like to spend more time on?
An ideal 5 year plan is to have explored more of the globe with my dance/photography and perhaps have my own photography space to explore new ideas.
What are your plans for the summer?
I have a few dance workshops in the summer, some leading and some participating. But I'm available for dance shoots (portfolio and headshots) so if anyone out there is interested then get in contact.
Can anyone attend the workshop you’re leading? If so, how can people register?
I'm leading a summer workshop at The Place. If you would like to be involved then go to The Place website and book a space but hurry, spaces are limited.
Thank you Leon for your time!
Leon's twitter handle