It was a real pleasure to spend a day with Mayuri Boonham and her company, ATMA Dance, at Pavilion Dance South West last month.  Mayuri was creating and rehearsing her new performance that was to be premiered at the Royal Opera House, with whom she is an affiliate choreographer, by the end of the month…no pressure then!

Mayuri uses classical Bharata Natyam movement to create subtle, beautifully crafted dance. I spend most of my time shooting ballet and contemporary so it was very interesting to have the opportunity to photograph a different style of dance.

Early that morning I met Mayuri and her lighting designer, Guy Hoare, in a very dark Ocean Room theatre strung with hundreds of light bulbs. It was like going into space, not so surprising when I considered the name of the piece, Ex Nihilo (‘out of nothing’), and that it is all about how the universe came into existence.

Mayuri took me through to watch her dancers take their daily class before I began shooting the development of the piece for the rest of the day. I like to see as much as I can at the start of a day’s shoot, as not only is it very enjoyable, but gives me a sense of the company and the style of the work.

 The class and rehearsals took place in The Sea Front studio. This is a fantastic place to photograph with its double height frosted glass windows running the full length of the room. It was like having a photography studio with the largest soft box you could possibly imagine. As a result I used this to create a set of relatively high key documentary shots that have a lovely ethereal light to them.

After spending most of the day in the studio we moved back to the theatre for the run through of what had been rehearsed. The arranging of the, this time, low key lighting to work in harmony with the movements of the dancers was a very exacting process. Due to being a dark environment with tungsten lighting the shooting conditions couldn’t have been more different to the daylight Sea Front studio. It wasn’t until late in the evening that time was called and we all packed up.

At the end of the week it was nice to be invited back, along with a number of others involved, to see a short performance of what had been achieved during the week. It’s a real treat, and rare occurrence, to see the development of a performance in this way. It was a lovely to watch and I wish them every success with it.

 My thanks to PDSW for inviting me on the artists’ residency and, of course, to Mayuri and her wonderful dancers for their co-operation. If you get a chance to see the performance on 30th October do go. You will see some photographs there too!


Simon Tomkinson Photography


Mayuri Boonham


Performance dates:

Pavilion Dance South West– 30th October 2014

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