Dancing Downtown: a city photo shoot with Simonne Smiles

Dance photography has come out of the studio and onto the street, not only with the work of Lisa Tomasetti who accompanies the Australian Ballet on tour, and not just with the well known Ballerina Project, in which the New York photographer, Dane Shitagi, poses dancers in unexpected locations throughout urban landscapes in New York and (and other American cities), but in central Sydney, where a commercial photographer worked with the dancer Simonne Smiles in an epic one-day project last summer.

The photographer, Denis Alexandrov, asked Simonne if she would pose for him in a series of photos.

Alexandrov does not usually photograph dancers but the photo session went well. Simonne is a professional dancer and knew exactly how to pose and what to wear during the photo shoot at various locations around Circular Quay, the Sydney Opera House, and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Accompanied by her husband, the dancer, Brad Moffitt, and an array of skirts, tops and tutus, she made a series of quick changes choosing the costumes and colours that best suited the backdrops.

I’ve known Simonne as a teacher and Pilates instructor for a number of years and although she is no longer dancing in a classical ballet company, she retains a beautiful line (and fine technique) – evident in these photos.

Simonne was born in Adelaide but grew up in Brisbane, training with Inara Svalbe and Mary Heath in classical ballet.

She moved to Melbourne to continue training at the National Ballet School and then the Australian Ballet School, and completed her training in Perth, at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts where she gained an advanced diploma in Performing Arts.

Simonne has danced with the Queensland Ballet, Ballet des Nordhazer Stadstheater, Singapore Dance Theatre and Suzhou Ballet Theatre in China.

Right now, she divides her time between running her own Pilates studio, dancing as a freelance artist with various companies and teaching in Sydney at Ecole Ballet & Dance Theatre in Lindfield and Dance 102 at Neutral Bay.

Simonne met Brad at the Australian Ballet School and they both danced together at Singapore Dance Theatre.

Brad has danced with many companies, including the Royal New Zealand Ballet and the Australian Opera and he’s also a massage therapist who works with Bangarra Dance Theatre, the Sydney Dance Company and the Australian Ballet when the Australian Ballet is dancing in Sydney.

I met Brad almost two decades ago at the Sydney Opera House when he won what’s now known as the Sydney Eisteddfod McDonald’s Ballet Scholarship.

Here’s a little of what I wrote about him in 1995 for The Sydney Morning Herald.

His father’s a judo expert, his mother a fencer, his sister is a professional dancer. In Brad Moffitt’s family, ‘we were allowed to try anything’.

On Sunday night, before a young audience cheering their favourites in the Concert Hall of the Opera House, 17-year-old Brad Moffitt won the richest dance prize in Australia, the $10,000 GIO Australia Ballet Scholarship presented each year as the culmination of the McDonald’s City of Sydney Performing Arts Challenge.

Competing against seven other finalists, all girls aged 15 to 17, Brad danced a variation from Act Three of Don Quixote which he chose to show off his effortless multiple turns.

‘I’m a good turner, like my sister. It’s a turner’s dance,’ said Brad, whose sister Fiona is with the West Australian Ballet.

Growing up in Wollongong, it was a case of life imitating the lyrics of I Can Do That in A Chorus Line: “I’m watching sis go to dance class …” and thinking “I can do this, I can do that”.

One Comment

  1. margaret
    Posted July 2, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    my beautiful ballet teacher xx

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Simonne Smiles posing against the backdrop of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, photo © Denis Alexandrov

Simonne Smiles posing against the backdrop of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, photo © Denis Alexandrov

Simonne Smiles at the passenger terminal, Circular Quay, Sydney, photo © Denis Alexandrov

Simonne Smiles at the passenger terminal, Circular Quay, Sydney, photo © Denis Alexandrov

Simonne Smiles, the swan and the sails of the Sydney Opera House, photo © Denis Alexandrov

Simonne Smiles, the swan and the sails of the Sydney Opera House, photo © Denis Alexandrov

Simonne under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, photo © Denis Alexandrov

Simonne under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, photo © Denis Alexandrov

Simonne Smiles near the passenger terminal, Circular Quay, Sydney, photo © Denis Alexandrov

Simonne Smiles near the passenger terminal, Circular Quay, Sydney, photo © Denis Alexandrov

Simonne Smiles and Brad Moffitt, Swan Lake

Simonne Smiles and Brad Moffitt, Swan Lake