Wednesday, July 24, 2019

My Life As A Dancer

My Life As A Dancer 

The other day on Netflix’s, I watched the documentary, “Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan.” This beautiful yet sad documentary highlights the career of a woman who was the star of the N.Y.C. Ballet for 30 years. The documentary shows Wendy’s last and final year at the company before, during, and after her hip surgery. The clips of her farewell performance made me tear up as well as made me pause to think. I had never really pondered what happens to my life after I am no longer able to dance. Anyone in this industry knows that the body can only dance at its absolute best for a certain number of keeps moving, and we get older.

I always knew my life was about dance. I never had any questions about how I was going to spend my future. When I was a child, I was very hyperactive. I had a creative mind. It was challenging for me to sit still in school for 8 hours straight. My parents put me in a variety of different sports trying to spark my interest and release some of my stored energy. None of them quite fit...from soccer to swimming to volleyball and on.

Then my parents put me in my first dance class. I still remember my first recital and am including an epic picture below haha. The recital was called “Live Like the Animals.” The first time I danced on stage, I was a leopard. I was 9 years old. My mom still tells me the story. After the show, I got in the car with a handful of flowers and told my mom and grandmother at the mere age of just 9 that this was what I was going to do with the rest of my life. My mom at the time just smiled and giggled because, of course, I was only 9...I knew, though. Since the moment I was waiting in the wings, to the second I hit the stage floor, I knew it was settled. The rest, of course, is history. The following year my parents signed me up for more classes. The year after that, I made a small children’s ballet company.
Recital Picture as a Leopard When I Was 9 Years Old
I danced every day in high school. I never had a single question about what I would be going to college for. My parents supported me, endlessly. I cannot even imagine how much money my parents spent on my classes, private lessons, costumes, pointe shoes and etc. My mom traveled across the country with me. I even got to perform at Disneyland! She was always there. Always. I am forever grateful.

In college, I essentially triple majored. I graduated from the University of Iowa in May of 2015 with a B.F.A. in Dance with an emphasis in Choreography, a Minor in Psychology, and a Performing Arts Entrepreneurial Certificate. I worked with several renowned choreographers and further premiered my own original works. I was also selected to be a part of the University of Iowa’s prestigious dance company, Dancers in Company, which toured throughout the Midwest performing repertory. I also worked at a bar to make ends meet. Over summers, I trained at Milwaukee Ballet on scholarship. I think the number of times I told friends the words, “I can’t I have dance or I can’t I have rehearsals” is absolutely endless. I have no regrets in regards to this.
Milwaukee Ballet Partnering Class Photo of a Ballerina Being Lifted Into the Air by Her Partner

Since graduating, I have continued to embrace a strong passion for sharing art with the Chicago Community. I have continued to perform and choreograph my own works. I have been a company member with three Chicago dance companies and am currently training in the aerial arts. I spent last summer training at the Boston Conservatory, and this summer, I will be continuing to dive into this type of work even more. I absolutely love taking my dance technique airborne! And of course, I have found a new outlet to express my love and passion for ballet and dance over the last few years...modeling. 

I think about all the young people in the world who have no idea what they want to do with their lives. For me, there was never ever that question. I have spent most of my life dancing. My passion for this art form runs so deep. Dance is who I am. Dance is an integrated part of everything about me. Dance has given me the ability to express my core self and has honestly, at times, saved my life when things have gotten complicated. It has its hardships and its ups and downs. Ballet is one of the most challenging art forms in the world. It is tough on the body. I feel like we understand, know, and embrace a higher level of pain tolerance than most professional football players haha.

I think about my students, as well. I try to give my heart and soul to them whenever I teach or choreograph a piece on them. I started teaching immediately after I graduated from college. For four years now going on five, I have watched my students grow and thrive. I watch them, and I see a younger version of myself. I see their drive and passion. I stand in the wings with them and feel what they are feeling. They have their entire lives ahead of them. It’s a beautiful thing to watch and experience. I am proud of them. 
University of Iowa Dance Performance by Deanna Carter. A Dancer in Motion Jumping in the Air
In ways, I am scared, though. I am 26 now and am hoping my body lasts another 10-15 years before I start to decline. I do not know what life after dance looks like...I have spent my entire life doing this, and it’s a scary thought...when you love something so much what happens when you are no longer able to do it? 

I hope God continues to bless both myself and my students with good health. I hope I have many fruitful years ahead of me. I am happy to be living a life doing what I love. I wish this for everyone.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Shutterfest 2019

Shutterfest 2019 

I had the pleasure of attending Shutterfest 2019 as Scott Detweiler's assistant and model. For anyone that has never participated in Shutterfest, I wholeheartedly recommend being a part of Shutterfest 2020. The amount of information you can learn at this event is endless. It's also an excellent networking opportunity and a chance to create art with talented individuals from all around the country. The speakers at this event are some of the best photographers in the United States who have a wealth of knowledge to share. Click here for the Behind the Scenes Video for Shutterfest 2019 :) 

I had the delight of meeting Brian Demint and modeling for his class "Creating on the Fly: Outfitting, Styling, and Shooting Challenge." In this class, Brian taught his students how to create stunning fashion attire out of everyday found material. Great way to save money and create crazy intense new looks! Photographers were provided with a diverse range of materials to work with, broken up into teams to create outfits on their models, were then allowed to shoot the looks they created and at the end of the class was a short fashion runway show. Everyone had a blast. Behind the Scenes photo by !

On some of my minimal downtime (haha) I had the opportunity to take one of Bambi Cantrell's classes that I ended up getting to model for. Her course, "Simply Divine Posing," elegantly highlighted posing techniques alongside the use of light. She taught how the use of shadows and highlights work when posing. She spoke on where her key (primary) light was coming from in her images and how to pose people accordingly. For instance, the part of your body closest to your light source will look the biggest. Shadows diminish something and make it look smaller. Light highlights something and makes it look bigger. She then physically provided excellent examples of this and how it works when posing an individual or a couple to achieve the best shots!

Last but not least, if you did not make it this year, next year take Scott Detweiler's "Conceptual Portrait" class! It is a must :). This is a very hands-on class where photographers have the opportunity to shoot three very diverse models and looks. I of course modeled during this class as the ballerina on set :) Thank you for all that attended! It was a real joy getting to meet you all. Thank you for the beautiful photos!

I feel blessed to have attended this event. I even learned so much just from sitting in the judges' room the first day and listening to the critics they gave on each image. I feel honored that Scott Detweiler's portrait of me won the Grand Imaging Award. I know this is the highest honor an image can receive at this event. Haha, I woke up the morning of the announcement to about 15 different people texting me saying “congratulations” and sleepy me was just like congratulations for what?!?! Then I went on Facebook to find this and of course talked to Scott!
This image also won at 90 at Imaging USA!

Is Elegance Timeless? 
Photo by: Scott Detweiler 
Model: Jennifer Raelynn
HMUA: Katie Krause 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Tips for Models: How to Get Started Part 2

Tips for Models: How to Get Started 
Part 2

7. Always communicate openly with a photographer before a photo shoot about what expectations are on both ends to avoid problems or miscommunication errors. Is this TFP or a Paid shoot? What, where, and when are you shooting? Be clear about anything you are unwilling to shoot. For instance, I do not shoot full nudes that reveal genitalia. Only artistic implied nude shots, whether they are bodyscapes or dance. Will you be allowed to pick a few photos from the gallery of the day's shots for final edits that you would like for your portfolio? Will the photographer be sending you the final edits to use for your collection and social media that they have selected and edited? How should each party be credited? General time frame in which you will get final edits? How will final edits be sent? It might seem silly, but for each of these questions, I can state a horror story example that I learned the hard way. One of my good friends did a TFP shoot with a photographer, and a year later she has still never seen a single photo from the shoot. Of course, this guy was just a jerk, but again, communication is key!

8. Do not use Model Mayhem… unless you enjoy copious amounts of creepy messages or spam. I am actually deleting my account this fall. I have only gotten 2-3 paid shoots off of that site in the past 6 months that were genuinely talented photographers who also happen to not be creepy. Most of the people who use MM are GWC. GWC stands for "guys/girls with cameras" or women who basically just want to get someone naked in a hotel room and take photos of them. I shut this down instantly and will never shoot with these types of people. For the most part, you are not going to get any usable shots from people who actively use that site as their MAIN basis. THIS DOES NOT MEAN I HAVE NEVER EVER MET TALENTED PEOPLE ON THERE. Not intending to have everyone from MM hate me or think I am trying to put them in a box. The above just sadly seems to be the norm for that site in my experience.

9. Read every single model release before signing it. When you are just starting out, I recommend asking a photographer to email his/her model contract before shooting. If you have any questions or do not understand something, ask them. Some of it may be legal jargon and who knows, maybe there is something on a person's individual release that you are not comfortable with. At that point, open up a conversation and possibly negotiate. Never sign something without fully understanding what it is you are signing.

10. BE PROFESSIONAL. Build an excellent reputation for being on time and ready to go. Do not be flaky! Do not show up 30 minutes or an hour late. Do not bail the night before, or the morning of the shoot. Do not show up hungover. If you want to be respected in this industry respect other people's time. You do not want to build a reputation for being that model that bails on shoots last minute or shows up extremely late. Yes, sometimes family emergency or issues arise or a person gets sick. We all understand that sometimes, things happen. Sometimes life happens. When something does occur, communicate quickly, appropriately, and respectfully. Apologize for the inconvenience and pick a date to reschedule. Most people will be understanding. Example: The latest I have ever shown up for a shoot was 15-20 minutes late due to ridiculous Chicago traffic. When this happens, I call the photographer while on the road and let them know my location, whether it is construction or an accident, and what my new arrival time will be. When I arrive, I still make sure they receive the full amount of time that they paid for and of course politely apologize. Then I proceed to kill the shoot, and everyone ends up happy :)

11. Learn how to do your own hair and makeup. You will not always have an HMUA on site. This is an asset/ skill set that will significantly help you in this industry. I am in no ways an expert, but I can get by if needed. Knowing how to do hair and makeup exceptionally well is an art form in itself that people take years to learn and master. Over the years, however, I have learned to be pretty darn good at doing my own. I would say 50 percent of the photos I post are my own hair and makeup. I have burned myself on a curling iron twice though, and I recommend you don't do that. :-) I will be posting an article about "Must Have Makeup Products" in August that you can reference for more information on what I have in my hair and makeup kit. Essentially, products & companies I trust and would recommend and even better products that make your makeup last longer during many hours of shooting outside in extreme weather conditions like heat, rain and snow.

12. Appropriately credit and tag all parties involved on social media. If there was a designer who's looks you modeled- credit them. If there was an HMUA on location- credit them. Photographer? Of course, appropriately credit them as well. And for the love of sweet Jesus NEVER EVER EDIT OR PUT A FILTER ON A PHOTOGRAPHERS WORK WHEN POSTING TO SOCIAL MEDIA. That is such a huge no! Several photographers I work with who also are good friends of mine have told me horror stories of beautiful final edits they have sent to newer models. Those models then proceeded to put ugly Instagram filters over the shot. Don't do that...quickest way never to be rehired.

I hope this has helped! Again, feel free to comment below or reach out personally with any additional questions, thoughts, or just feedback! I would love your input and thank you for reading.

Beautiful beach shoot with the sun setting on the model
Photo by: Ed Sochacki

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Tips for Models: How to Get Started Part 1

Tips for Models: How to Get Started
Part 1

Everyone has to start somewhere. In this concise blog, I will give you 12 tips on how to get your modeling career started and further be successful in this continually changing industry. Any questions, thoughts, or feedback, please do not hesitate to comment on this blog or reach out personally. I am here to help! This blog will be divided into two parts. Stay tuned for the next 6 tips in the following blog!

1. First and foremost, I recommend contemplating in depth what you are seeking to accomplish as a model in this industry. How do you want to brand yourself? What type of art are you seeking to create? Do you want to shoot fashion? Do you want to shoot swimwear? Do you want to create out-of-the-box edgy art? Do you want to be a brand ambassador? Is your end goal to work freelance or do you want to end up with an agency?

2. Once you have thought about the above questions and narrowed down what your goals are, how you want to brand yourself and what type of work/art you are seeking to create in this industry, I wholeheartedly recommend establishing a "modeling nickname" or moniker that represents you and keeps your real identity hidden. Do not use your full legal name.

3. Once you have decided on the moniker, you would like to brand yourself under permanently, whether you are seeking to work freelance or with an agency, I next recommend building a professional Instagram, Facebook account or Business page and lastly website where you can show your portfolio. These pages should all be under the same name you have chosen. I recommend keeping these pages purely professional. Do not post pictures out drinking, mirror selfies, or even statuses about personal issues or political posts. Have separate accounts for your personal life. Do not blend the two. Building a Blog and Youtube channel also never hurts.

4. Be careful who you work with. Never let someone make you feel uncomfortable. Watch out for red flags when setting up a photo shoot with someone. If they say or do anything that makes you think twice about working with them, the simple answer is DON'T! I further recommend always texting 1-2 trusted friends the address of where you are shooting...especially if it is your first time working with the person and/or it is in a private secluded location such as a hotel or a private residence. SAFETY FIRST! Always prioritize your safety. Perhaps take a friend? Bringing your boyfriend, husband or significant other usually looks terrible and can further be distracting, so maybe a girlfriend or even your mother or another family member?

5. Do not sacrifice your morals or who you are to shoot with someone just for the money. It is not worth it in the long run. Stay true to who you are and the art you are seeking to create. Do not let someone push or manipulate you into shooting something you are not entirely comfortable with. A personal example: Years ago when I first started shooting boudoir, I had someone try to pressure me into doing implied losing the classy lingerie I was wearing. The answer was, "hell, no!" This was not part of what we had spoken about before our shoot, nor was I comfortable shooting that type of material with him. Put your foot down ladies. You are beautiful, and you do not have to take your clothes off to prove that.

6. Build a strong network. Networking in this industry is essential. Seek out people that have a similar mindset, artistic point of view, and even work ethic. Be inspired by other people's work and reach out to those whose work you enjoy and represents the vision you have for what you are seeking to create. Shoot with people who inspire you. Shoot with people whose work you admire. Shoot with people who will challenge you artistically. Shoot with people who will help you grow as an artist.

Ballerina in a beautiful blue dress on pointe performing an arabesque, attitude and double stag jump
Photo by: Scott Detweiler 

Industry Do's and Don'ts Part 2

Industry Do's and Don'ts  Industry Don'ts Part 2 Here is Part 2! I would really like to hear your thoughts on this one! H...