Dance Photography: The Nutcracker Through the Years


With the holidays approaching fast I hope everyone is getting into the spirit of the season.

I thought I'd try to get in the mood with a bit of a trip down memory lane with some festive images from the North Carolina Dance Theatre's (NCDT) performances of The Nutcracker over the years. This year's staging kicks off next week so I jumped the gun and gathered a few old chestnuts from our photo vault.

My first exposure to NCDT's amazing dancers was in the early 90s while working for The Charlotte Observer. Dance photography has remained a passion for more than 15 years and it's been a pleasure documenting the performances of this incredibly talented troupe.

Another interesting aspect of assembling these images was seeing the progression of photo technology during the span these photographs were taken. After starting with film, I moved through a variety of digital cameras and the improvements in technology is noticeable. I included some technical information for photographers. It's evident that upgrades in camera technology now allow images that just weren't possible before.

The biggest change has been the improvement in the high ISO ranges of the newer cameras. While I once had to shoot very slow shutter speeds just to try to get an image, I now have the option of using the slow shutter speed for aesthetics or I can change to a higher shutter speed to freeze motion. The reduction in noise in extremely high ISOs and the overall color saturation of the images is also vastly better.

But enough technical talk. It's the holidays. Crank up some Christmas music, grab some eggnog and enjoy!

I'll be photographing the 2009 version next week so check back for some fresh images. Hey, you can't have too many Nutcracker photos - right? That would be like having too many Christmas presents.

2007 performance, Nikon D2X, 1/30th of a second at ISO 800

Snowflakes in 2007. Nikon D2X 1/30th f2.8 ISO 800

Jason Jacobs portrays the Mouse King in 2001. Nikon D1 at 1/15th of a second

Jason Jacobs portrays the Mouse King in 2001. Nikon D1 1/15th f2.8 ISO 800

Traci Gilchrest slithers in 2001. Nikon D1 at 1/100th of a second

Traci Gilchrest slithers in 2001. Nikon D1 1/100th f2.8 ISO 800

Dancers wait backstage in 2007. Nikon D2X, 1/30th at f2.8 800 ISO

Dancers wait backstage in 2007. Nikon D2X 1/30th f2.8 800 ISO

Barry Leon leaps as Drosselmeyer in the mid 90s. Film image taken with Nikon F5

Barry Leon leaps as Herr Drosselmeyer in 1996. Film image taken with Nikon F5 (Fuji 800)

Mia Cunningham's Clara gets a lift in 1996. Nikon F5 film image

Mia Cunningham's Clara gets a lift in 1996. Nikon F5 film image (Fuji 800)

Shell Bauman and Heather Malloy in 2001. Nikon D1 1/30th at f2.8

Heather Malloy as Clara in 2001. Nikon D1 1/30th f2.8 ISO 800

Snowflake Miranda Haywood soars in 2001. Nikon D1, 1/20th f2.8 ISO 800

Snowflake Miranda Haywood soars in 2001. Nikon D1 1/20th f2.8 ISO 800

Ellen Hummel as Clara in 2007. Nikon D2X 1/30th f2.8 ISO 800

Ellen Hummel as Clara in 2007. Nikon D2X 1/30th f2.8 ISO 800

Jasmine Perry is Clara in 2008. Nikon D3 1/800th f2.8 ISO 2500

Jasmine Perry is Clara in 2008. Nikon D3 1/800th f2.8 ISO 2500

Sasha Janes as Drosselmeyer lifts Ellen Hummel's Clara in2007. Nikon D2X 1/200th f2.8 ISO 800

Sasha Janes as Drosselmeyer lifts Ellen Hummel's Clara in2007. Nikon D2X 1/200th f2.8 ISO 800

Mark Diamond's Drosselmeyer with Jasmine Perry in 2008. Nikon D3 1/800th f5.0 ISO 2500

Mark Diamond's Drosselmeyer with Jasmine Perry in 2008. Nikon D3 1/800th f5.0 ISO 2500

Heather Malloy and friends in 2001. Nikon D1 1/10th f2.8

Heather Malloy and friends in 2001. Nikon D1 1/10th f2.8 ISO 800

The Nutcracker leads the charge in 2008. Nikon D3 1/250th f4.5 ISO 4000

The Nutcracker leads the charge in 2008. Nikon D3 1/250th f4.5 ISO 4000

The Mouse King in 2008. Nikon D3 f 1/125th f4.0 ISO 4000

The Mouse King in 2008. Nikon D3 f 1/125th f4.0 ISO 4000

Seia Rassenti prances in 2006. Nikon D2Hs 1/200th f2.8 ISO 800

Seia Rassenti prances in 2006. Nikon D2Hs 1/200th f2.8 ISO 800

A young dancer runs out from beneath Mother Ginger's dress in 2006. Nikon D2Hs 1/200th f3.0 ISO 800

A young dancer runs out from beneath Mother Ginger's dress in 2006. Nikon D2Hs 1/200th f3.0 ISO 800

Shell Bauman and Kati Hanlon Mayo in 2001. Nikon D1 1/200th f2.8 ISO 800

Kati Hanlon Mayo in 2001. Nikon D1 1/200th f2.8 ISO 800

Snowflakes in 2007. Nikon D2X 1/20th f2.8 ISO 800

Snowflakes in 2007. Nikon D2X 1/20th f2.8 ISO 800

Snowflaks circa '08. Nikon D3 1/400th f2.8 ISO 3200

Snowflaks circa '08. Nikon D3 1/400th f2.8 ISO 3200

Angel from the mid 90s. Nikon F5 film image (Fuji 800@ 1600)

Angel from 1996. Nikon F5 film image (Fuji 800)

Angel from 2008. Nikon D3 1/100th f2.8 ISO 4000

Angel from 2008. Nikon D3 1/100th f2.8 ISO 4000

NCDT2 dancer Sarah Hay waits to perform in 2006. Nkon D2Hs 1/160th f2.8 640 ISO

NCDT2 dancer Sarah Hay waits to perform in 2006. Nkon D2Hs 1/160th f2.8 640 ISO

Dancer Sarah James in 2008. Nikon D3 1/1000th f2.8 ISO 2000

Dancer Sarah James in 2008. Nikon D3 1/1000th f2.8 ISO 2000

Dancer readies in the wings in 1996. Nikon F5 Fuji 800

Dancer readies in the wings in 1996. Nikon F5 film image (Fuji 800)

Nutcracker loses his head in 2007. Nikon D2X 1/125th f2.8 ISO 800

Nutcracker loses his head in 2007. Nikon D2X 1/125th f2.8 ISO 800

Mia Cunningham's Clara spins in the early 90s. Nikon F5 film image (Fuji 800)

Mia Cunningham's Clara spins in the early 90s. Nikon F5 film image (Fuji 800)