Ballet from the Wing

Emily Benzi, dancing in a Flower role, stretches before taking the stage as the Eastern Connecticut Ballet performs their Nutcracker for students from schools around the region Friday, December 9, 2011 at the Garde.

A little over 20-years ago, as a student at Boston University I attended a panel discussion by several notable photojournalists who talked about pursuing one's passion and following subjects for long-term projects.

Jerry Berndt, who's made a career documenting wars and conflict overseas and the plight of the homeless in the United States, spoke primarily about his long-term efforts documenting the Boston Ballet. He showed a series of stunning images he'd made both on stage as well as behind the scenes.

That work has been with me every since. The Eastern Connecticut Ballet has been an ongoing project for me since I've been at The Day. I've documented many aspects of their programs, from classes for many ages to their first story-length ballet production of Cinderella to their annual Nutcracker performances.

When they are performing on stage I work very hard to catch the athleticism and artistry of the performance. Then I work my way to the backstage where I look for the moments that most don't get to see and I strive to find my own artistic inspiration in the soft light that filters in off the stage.

I may always be a little troubled, aesthetically, by the bit of clutter from the backstage that intrudes on this quiet moment in the perfect light, but this image embodies the work that Jerry Berndt showed an aspiring photojournalist over two decades ago.

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