Perspective: Interview with ABT Certified Teacher and Photographer, Nia Creates,

Header Image: Sofia Osoria © Nia Creates

Hi Nia! Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview with us. We’ve seen your stunning photos on Instagram for a while now and can’t wait to finally learn more about the woman behind the lens! 

Can you share with us a bit about your background as a dancer and as an ABT Certified Teacher? 
Hello! Thanks so much for opening up your platform to me; it’s so wonderful to connect with you. I started dancing like most little girls, at the age of two, in a small, local studio and from there the love just kept growing. By age 10, I knew I wanted to dance forever and moved back home to Cali, Colombia, where I began my formal ballet training at Incolballet under the direction of Gloria Castro.

I started assisting by age 15, and at 17, had grown a couple of my own groups at a studio - mostly in Jazz and Lyrical. When I moved to the United States, I had stopped dancing due to several injuries and knew I wanted to focus more on teaching.  After teaching for a few years, I looked into the ABT certifications. I loved their approach to teaching dance for every body type. I love their focus on developmental teaching and progressions in a safe way. Being certified by ABT has given me tools to solidify the way I teach each movement and has taught me how to make my classes level-appropriate, no matter the age. 

In what specific ways do your dance and teaching backgrounds help you as a dance photographer?
As a dancer and teacher, I can not only come up with poses, but also make sure the dancer is doing them technically correct - so no sickled feet or wonky hips! All these details really make the dancer feel confident when working with me.

"Many of the dancers say that a shoot with me is also like a mini private lesson."

Many of the dancers say that a shoot with me is also like a mini private lesson. I think it is fun for them to explore their technique in a different environment, so I love that. 

Kaylee Rampersad © Nia Creates
Kaylee Rampersad © Nia Creates 

I know you actually went to college for film - how cool! What made you want to explore this other area of artistry? Are there any similarities between the film and dance worlds?
Yes, I have my Bachelor's in Film! I knew I did not want to go to college for dance because I was already having some health issues and actually thought my time in the dance world would come to a halt. I danced until my junior year of college and then went into film.

I loved screenwriting and directing. My training as a dancer gave me discipline and stamina to keep up with the crazy hours in the film industry. I also came into it with the understanding of how an ensemble works. Filming days can be similar to show days. It is a perfectly choreographed piece with so many moving parts, everyone has a very specific role, and we all depend on each other to succeed. Artists, no matter their medium, have a passion which they see life through, and I love being surrounded by that fire. 

How and when did you first start taking photos of dancers? Do you have any advice for other dancers who may be interested in pursuing dance photography?
As a young dancer, I always loved doing photoshoots with my mom. They weren’t anything fancy, but I just loved to capture movement. My freshman year of college I had to take a photography class, and I would always use my dance students as my models for assignments.

I was terrible at the beginning! As time went on and the course was over, I started doing dance themed films for most of my projects, but I missed photography. You only get one image to provoke an emotion, and I found that so powerful. So, I went back to doing small shoots mostly for fun. After college, I moved to South Florida and started shooting local dancers, and it's all been growing since. 

For dancers pursuing dance photography, start with your friends. It is the best way to practice! You don’t need a super expensive camera to start shooting - learn with whatever you have!  Practice getting your angles right, find what kind of lighting and mood interest you the most, and play with that. 

Angelina Brennan © Nia Creates Angelina Brennan © Nia Creates  

How would you describe your work? 
Bright and hopefully intense.  I always aim to create an environment where the dancer feels powerful and beautiful. As dancers, we are always aiming to improve, and there is always so much work to be done. I love creating a space where the dancer can celebrate how far they have come. Where they exhibit how strong, fierce, and gravity-defying they can be. I can only hope that feeling comes to life in my work. 

As I was looking through your dance portfolio, I couldn’t help but notice some of the incredible action shots you achieved. Do you have any tips for dancers who want to catch that perfect, midair saut de chat?
Thank you! I think this question is relevant for both photographers and dancers. As a photographer, I always like to see the leap before I photograph it so we can tweak the angles. Position is everything in photography. When you bring a dancer into a 2-D space, you can easily make them look compressed.

Dancers should always be performance ready for a shoot. Hair, makeup, warmups – everything we do before a performance we also need to do before our shoot.

"When the time comes, ground yourself in your technique."

When the time comes, ground yourself in your technique.  When leaping, make sure you have a great pile, you fully extend past your fingertips and toes, and you have that feeling of suspension at the top of your jump. Your energy should be explosive! 

What advice can you give dancers to help them #FeelGoodDanceBetter before and/or during a photoshoot?
Before your shoot, warm up! You can’t expect to do your best if your body isn’t fully ready to go. You must prepare mentally, as well. I love to tell my dancers to play around and explore how big they can be. If you fall out of your leap, or you do something that’s not super aesthetic, who cares! Those photos will never see the light of day! But in that search, we usually find authentic poses and you find confidence and pride in posing like yourself, not something you copied off the internet. 

Sofia Osorio © Nia Creates
Sofia Osorio © Nia Creates 

From a dance teacher’s perspective, what are some of the most common corrections you find yourself giving to dancers during their sessions? Anything you seem to always need to remind them of?
I find myself constantly telling dancers to make everything bigger. Poses shouldn’t be stagnant. On the technical side, I find that many dancers struggle with hip placement throughout their extensions. Whether it be rotation or alignment of the hips, they focus too much on the “working leg” and not enough on the supporting leg, which in reality, should be doing just as much work. 

What are your top tips for choosing poses or movements during a shoot?
Dance! Don’t just get into a position and wait for the perfect shot; be actively engaged in whatever you are doing. If you are posing in an arabesque, I should see you expanding your energy, reaching through your fingertips and out through your back leg, as well as pushing out of the ground. It makes a huge difference in the final outcome.

You should know what makes you stand out on the dance floor, so bring it to your shoot! I’m often surprised when I ask a dancer what their favorite movement is, and they don’t have an answer, especially when later in the shoot I find out they have a fantastic leap or extension. Start owning what makes you unique. 

As a former dancer yourself, what do you think the biggest challenges are for dancers during photoshoots, especially if they are new to it all? And what advice do you have to overcome that?
Similar to my last answer, even though it’s good to have some inspiration shots, don’t come into it thinking you are going to get the exact same pose. You are you! I find a lot of time and energy gets wasted in trying to duplicate someone else’s photo. I love to base a movement off of what their inspiration is, but then transform it to what shows off what they do best. 


Jade Taylor Shaknaitis © Nia Creates
Jade Taylor Shaknaitis © Nia Creates 

I noticed that while you do have some in-studio photos in your portfolio, most of them seem to be outdoor shoots at gorgeous locations in South Florida. What do you look for when choosing your venues?
I like open space. I love shooting in parks or beaches. The wash of color given by nature really makes the dancer pop! I always recommend shooting somewhere where there is diversity so it looks like more than one location. 

How can dancers book a session with you?
You can check out my available packages at my DM’s are always open to answer any question too. I would love to create with all of you. Come on over to Instagram and say "Hi!"

Website: | Instagram

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