Fun fact - I used to be a dancer! I made my choice to go a different direction but, a part of my heart will forever be in-love with dance. There is something so moving - so breathtaking about watching a dancer pour their heart and soul into expressive movement. When paired with the right song, a dancers movement can bring you to tears or make you smile. It is an art form unlike anything else, it's completely immersive.
Instead of dance, I now document the stories that dancers tell with their body's. It is something I am both passionate about and also honored to do.
Kelly found me a year ago after seeing my work with a previous dancer. We immediately clicked and planned to shoot something incredible but, with her finishing up college at Montclair State University, working and then the start of the pandemic our plans kept getting delayed.
I was excited to receive an email from Kelly in October that her schedule let up a little bit and we could finally plan something! It all came together really quickly and the shoot was scheduled, concepted and completely styled within a week.
Using costumes that Kelly already owned our concept was inspired by Black vs. White Swan and would consist of 2 outfits and two different locations. I spent hours going over the details of hair and makeup with my amazingly talented team. We wanted to make sure the looks would translate easily for both outfits while still giving the dramatic appearance we were aiming for.
After days of prep, there was only one thing left to do - shoot.
Shoot day was the first really cold day we had in NJ this year and also happened to fall on Halloween. We had an immediate hiccup as soon as we arrived - the first locations street was closed off! As a group, Kelly, her mother, my assistant and my self made the decision to just go for and parked outside of the road closure and walked all the way up. The destination at the end were abandoned train tracks.
Kelly warmed up quickly and we were able to capture a ton of gorgeous movement on camera (as well as some video). The first hour flew by before Kelly bundled back up and we made our way back to the car to change into look number 2. For look number 2 - 'white swan' the sun was perfectly gleaming, creating some gorgeous dramatic shadowing within the architecture we were shooting.
After about two and half hours, we wrapped. Everyone was pumped after seeing a few back of the camera sneak peeks and i couldn't wait to get home and edit!
Kelly was sensational! A beautiful dancer with an even more beautiful soul. I am truly honored to have witnessed her gracefulness and her expression of dance first hand. I am even more honored that she entrusted her graduation dance photos with me. I can't wait to see where her talent takes her next.
WITH LOVE, KRYSTAL
(after the photos, keep scrolling to read an interview with Kelly and see the behind the scenes video)
an interview WITH kelly
What made you want to be a dancer? Is this something you have wanted to pursue your whole life?
I began my dance career locally at the age of three in Metuchen, NJ but I really started my career way before then. My dancing started two generations before me. My Grandma was a dancer growing up during the Depression. She could not afford tap shoes yet she was determined to learn and emulate her favorite celebrity, Shirley Temple. My Grandma took bottle caps and glued them onto her shoes. Determination, hard work, and the love of dance only grew more from there. My mother then took her mother’s love for dance and furthered it. She grew up dancing and at her local studio and then continued her studies at Montclair State University as a BFA Acting/Directing Performance Major.
I always loved to dance ever since I was little, my home videos are the proof. I always loved dancing to the music and dressing up for recitals. Growing up I was a very active child who just wanted to try to follow in my two brother’s footsteps. I played multiple sports growing up including soccer, softball, track, and basketball, along with dance. Sticking with dance and basketball throughout high school, I was on our varsity state sectional championship team as well as being captain my senior year. Solidifying that I wanted to continue with my dream of being a professional dancer, I continued my mom’s journey by studying dance at Montclair as well. So, I guess you can say dance is part of my genetics.
Dancing was just a part of me from the start and I cannot imagine myself without it.
You just gradated MSU (Montclair State University) in the middle of a pandemic, how was that like? How did it change things?
Honestly it was quite crazy to be blunt. I always looked forward to my graduation from college, especially being the baby of my family, and as any senior would. Approaching my senior year of college, I knew I had my schedule full, and I loved it. I was so stoked for graduation and to head out well prepared for the professional job world. Luckily, our senior show was early enough that we still got to perform it in the Alexander Kasser Theater before the pandemic hit. However, unfortunately I had also choreographed a solo that was selected to be in our Dance Maker’s concert, formerly known as Dance Collage, and that show was cancelled. So, I did get to perform for the last time with all of the other seniors, but my own work will never be seen as an undergraduate. Right after we closed our show we went right into Spring Break, and never came back to school. I like to think positively though, and joke that I am technically still on Spring Break. After the news was official we had to move out of our apartments in a very narrow time slot. And then everything in my college experience at MSU was over. Well, that was dramatic… but it had to continue at home. My whole life flipped upside down. I went from living in an apartment at school back to living in my childhood home, taking my dance classes virtually in my living room. I only hit the ceiling fan and couches like three times. We had to move our senior banquet to a Zoom meeting as well as our graduation. I was lucky enough to be selected as the Convocation Speaker for the College of the Arts Class of 2020. Unfortunately, it had to be virtual but I like to see the positives in things so it was better than not having graduation at all. I was able to surprise my family and friends with the news live. It was a blessing in disguise though because I could have all of my friends and family watch me graduate, present my speech, and accept the Dance Spirit Award. If graduation was on the football field,(which I would have loved) I was only going to be allowed a possible four tickets. Overall, I thought 2020 was going to be an amazing year and looking back it was not how I imagined it to go, but it is my story to tell and I am happy with how everything ended up.
What is ahead for you and your dance career? Whats next?
Currently, I am on staff at two different dance studios in NJ as well as working at two restaurants and babysitting. I have been continuing to take class on Zoom through Broadway Dance Center and Steps on Broadway. Additionally, I have been working with some choreographers in rehearsals on some new choreography and dance films. Originally, my goal right out of college was to audition and hopefully book a cruise, commercial work, Rockettes, Broadway, or dance in a film. Those are all still the goals for me but all of those performing gigs will have to wait unfortunately. I was cast in a Broadway Jazz show choreographed and directed by John Leggio for April which is currently postponed until further notice. My goals have not changed- just the world currently- so I will continue to make it work and building connections in the dance world so that I am ready when things get back to normal -whatever that is.
What is your favorite type of dance and why?
My favorite type of dance is jazz or musical theater. It represents how I am as a person. I truly love all styles including ballroom but these two styles because they just represent me. Jazz can be as classical as a Fosse isolation or as big as dancing behind a singer and doing commercial work. I love where jazz came from and how it has evolved and I am so blessed to know as many styles as I do. Musical theater for me has always been one of my favorites. From when I was little watching big production numbers, on VCR tapes, with my Grandma and mother. I just love the energy and happiness that a Broadway number delivers to the audience. I still freak out when I go to see a new Broadway show. My refrigerator is covered in magnets of shows that I have been lucky enough to see. Musical theater is such a great story teller and I appreciate how the dancing gets to help tell that story. Broadway has also evolved so much and I pray that one day I will get to feel those Broadway lights on me and have that full circle moment of me in the Broadway audience at my first show “Oklahoma!”
Dancing looks so elegant but, those who know, it can be challenging especially on the body. Whats the behind the scenes of a dancer?
This for me is such a hard question to answer because being sore is a product of doing what you love. We are trained to make things look elegant and effortless but we actually have to put so much effort in to make sure it looks seamless. It is interesting because every day your body can feel different, because there are so many factors. Maybe you tweaked a muscle in a rehearsal, or the weather is super cold so your body needs extra warm-up time, or maybe you did not drink enough water last night. Those are all just some examples of things that could cause your body to feel a little different. I think it is important to note that dancers are athletes and pretty much super heroes. If something is hurting, we ignore it until the last possible second. When the choreographer says one more time, we do it that again with no question. As dancers, we are super in tune with our bodies, we can tell if even the smallest thing is off in our body. So, it is so important to take note on what your body is feeling. We are constantly trying to make our bodies better and more equipped to do whatever our next choreographer will ask for. On the other side, we do need to listen to our bodies. Warming up and cooling down is essential as well as finding a schedule that works for you.
Do you have any tips or words of inspiration for up-and-coming dancers?
Practice. Practice. Practice. It sounds very cliché, but it is the truth. Push yourself to try new genres. Now is actually the best time to try choreographers that scare you. BDC and Steps have so many incredible classes with famous choreographers going on right now. It is truly amazing that we have the luxury to connect with these celebrities-without commuting- even while in a pandemic! There are so many choreographers around the world that I am blessed to have been able to take class with during the pandemic.
Believe in yourself as well as focus on yourself. Do things to make yourself more marketable. Focus on what you need to be doing to get that new combination in class, do not worry about someone else who has it already. Work on yourself. Run your own race. Remain humble and be professional. Be prepared, be early to auditions and meetings. These are all crucial in the dance world, work hard and trust yourself. You got this!
on the photoshoot...
What made you want to do a dance shoot with Krystal?
I could just tell from the photos I saw that she has such a great “eye.” The angles she was shooting from as well as her ability to capture dance with her camera must be a challenge, but she does it so beautifully. Dancers in motion are hard to photograph and I appreciated her ability to capture the sweet elegance, and beautiful nature dance has along with the athleticism. I also really could tell that she took time to get the concept together for the shoot. Location, hair and makeup, dancer, as well as wardrobe, they all came together so beautifully.
How did you come up with the concept for the shoot?
Krystal had given me some great choices about what she had been thinking for some ideas. After the ideas were laid out she asked me what outfits I had. I basically took all of my costumes that I could think of and sent them to her. We then narrowed down my options and how they could fit into my shoot. It was really collaborative and I loved it so much.
How did you feel not knowing what hair and makeup would look like until the day of?
It was pretty exciting to say the least but I was a little bit nervous. I had been following previous shoots though, and the hair and makeup was great so I was not too worried. I was blessed to have them be generous enough to spend the very early morning with me doing my hair and makeup. Everything came out so beautiful and the girls were so very talented at what they do. They brought the whole thing all together.
What were your expectations going into the shoot? Were you nervous? Did you know how you wanted to dance?
I was extremely nervous because I honestly did not know what to expect. It is always exciting and nerve- wracking meeting someone new especially in Co-Vid. Krystal made me feel so welcomed and comfortable about this shoot and I could not be more thrilled that everything finally came together. I had ideas in my head of how I wanted the shoot to go and certain poses but the shoot far exceeded my expectations. I was nervous before the shoot just like any performance because it was show time and I also did not know what to expect on location.
Tell us about the shoot day? How did it all unravel?
I woke up around 4:15am because hair and make-up was to arriving at 5am. I had two different artists doing hair and makeup and I am so grateful for their talents. The makeup really made my Swan look emphasized and my hair was an updo that easily transitioned into half up-half down. Once we got to our shoot location the road was closed so we had to think quickly. There were a couple of things that we all had to adapt to. First of all, the weather was so cold. Before we even left for the shoot there was ice on the car so we had to scrape that all off. My dresses were very light material but I knew that the pictures would come out so lovely with the different skirts. I was also doing the shoot on pointe so I knew that my feet were going to be cold. It was important for me to make sure I was warm so I wore a lot of layers. Getting to the train tracks, they had recently done some demolition to the trees in the area so we had to relocate to another part of the tracks which ended up being where we shot. I knew it would be cold shooting in 30 degree weather but it was definitely harder than I thought. I just wanted the shoot to go so well that I put a lot of pressure on myself. I also had to be careful because they were abandoned tracks so there were holes and rocks around as well as ice on the tracks making it slippery. I was just nervous to get the shot for Krystal so we all really committed to making it work. I am so grateful to everyone that helped that day come together, standing in the cold with me for hours.
After the shoot, was was your overall feeling of the day?
After the shoot I was so happy!! It was such a fulfilling experience to be outside in the fresh air to dance and have this photoshoot come to life. Throughout the day Krystal did show me some great shots she captured and it made me so excited for the final products. I knew that Krystal was talented but being in the process with her seeing how she approaches her work was so eye-opening. I was so hopeful about all of the shots and I think I was most eager to see the moving shots that I did. These were not posed and so I was excited to see the ones that I did not even know about. Also, she told me that it would not be long before I got my behind the scenes video so I was waiting for that too, and the turnaround time was very quick. I was so appreciative to also have that special video to relive the shoot.
What was the most challenging thing about the shoot?
The most challenging thing about the shoot was not being able to feel my toes. The weather was just so bone-chilling, especially because of my wardrobe. I wanted to make sure I was on my box on pointe but I was also making sure not to slide on the ice. It was a challenge on the narrow part of train tracks that I had because of the rocks and uneven wood. In the second location the hardest part was that the ledge I was on was angled on both sides so in order to balance with my icicles for toes, I had to be extra careful especially because the one side had broken glass all over it. Krystal and Monica were so amazing that when I was changing into “look two” they had tried to brush off the glass for me.
What is one of your favorite shots from the shoot?
In the first outfit I think that one of my two favorites was dancing and my skirt flying high around me. It was a very candid moment that I was lucky for Krystal to capture. My other favorite from “look one” was of me sitting on the trail rail with my feet on pointe. I have my head resting on my knees and my skirt is draping over the rail. It just seems so pure and simple and I love it. Two of my favorites in my white outfit is when I have my leg up on the wall above my head and the sun is beaming itself onto the camera lens. The lighting was so natural and perfectly timed. I cannot get over it. One other favorite was me leaning my back against the wall and I am looking forward pretty intensely and it is so dramatic yet simple. Clearly, I had a hard time picking a favorite because none of them are alike yet so they are each beautiful in their own way.
What will be the most memorable thing about this photoshoot experience?
The most memorable thing about the shoot was having my mom there. She has been by my side for all of my shows and dance gigs and I am truly blessed with her consistent support. Krystal insisted that it would be good to have an extra hand on set because I had a costume change and it would be easier. Due to Co-vid I felt safe to bring my mom along. It was special having her behind the camera and she was able to take a few behind the scenes shots of the behind the scenes videographer. It will be the most memorable because she was able to see the process from the beginning to the end.
Did you know what Krystal's assistant was doing during the shoot? Did you expect the video?
Krystal did tell me that they were going to shoot a behind the scenes video and I was super excited about it. There were only three times that we stopped to take a video for the BTS. I was instructed to not look at the camera when she was filming but honestly she was so quiet I did not even know that she filming me. The final outcome made my jaw drop. She caught the essence of the shoot in this video. From the makeup/hair, to the dramatic stares. The music was a perfect match and I found this video so deep.
You just saw your photos for the first time, what was your reaction?
I screamed. I was completely in awe of the final products. They were stunning. Some of the poses that I did came out better than I could have hoped and the candid ones were captured beautifully. There were some in there that I did not even remember taking. She just knew what angle would look the best for the shot and it came out perfectly. I loved that there were some wide-angled shots as well as close up headshot type ones. She captured the beauty of the locations and made the final products look so unbelievable that I was speechless. I could not even sit in my chair. I really appreciate that she took the time to personally show them to me over Zoom before she released them to the world.
Would you recommended Krystal Pratt Productions to other dancers or even other people in general?
Yes, I would one hundred percent recommend her to other dancers and anyone. Her work speaks for itself, she is so talented and has an incredible eye for her work. The whole experience was pleasant. Even though we had a hiccup with the first location we quickly adapted. The whole day was so organized with a thorough schedule, including contacts for all of the participants. Everything is so meticulously thought out and you can tell that she puts a lot of effort and time into each shoot. She has a way of capturing the moment in time just beautifully. Everyone I worked with I was truly talented and so pleasant to work with. You would be missing out if you did not take the opportunity to work with her and her team.
BEHIND THE SCENES
| Dancer | Kelly Beck | Makeup | Alexis Rivera | Hair | Krystal McLeod
Branch Brook Park | Newark, New Jersey