Twist!! Translating 3D Movement Into 2D

Hey guys, Renee here!

I’m a dancer who’s been part of the team here at the RNP studio for the last year. I’ve known Rachel for several years; the first time we met was for my own audition photos! I am now part of the full-time team here and get to watch her and Andrew work their magic every day. It’s funny- one of the biggest takeaways from my first shoot with her was the idea of taking 3D movement and fitting it into 2D space, and now I get to see dancers really take it on every day in our shoots. What a full circle!

Behind the scenes shot of photographers Rachel Neville and Andrew Fassbender working during a video/photoshoot

This concept, the translation from 3-dimensional movement to a 2-dimensional image is something that I never thought of before I shot with Rachel, but it makes complete sense! We are dancing in the studio and on stage in a rectangular or square space, most often front to back, side to side or on diagonals.  But really, for photography and video, our screens show us those steps in 2 dimensions. That different perspective often can require adjustments so that our lines still look good on the flat plane! One of the ways we accomplish this is with what has become known as ‘The Twist’ in the studio!

The Twist comes up in almost every shoot: it’s a super important thing to remember when posing and dancing for the camera (this applies beautifully to filming dance videos, too!). It’s actually quite a basic concept: place your hips in one direction, and you rotate your upper body in the other direction. Simple, but difficult: we just don’t do this naturally! It feels weird, sometimes even wrong; it’s not usually something we would replicate in a rehearsal or audition, (particularly for classically trained dancers), but can often be the distinction between an amazing shot and an average one. Incorporating a strong twist in your pose and movement also creates and enhances the dynamics of an image!

Dark ballet photo of Kyra Lin in a galaxy print leotard in a contemporary dance pose on pointe photographed by Rachel Neville
Dancer: Kyra Lin

Why twist?

This rotation helps to make sure the integrity of your technique is accurately represented in the 2D space of a computer screen or print. It’s such a bummer when everything is prepared correctly for the shot – legs are turned out, arms are set – you snap the shot, and all of a sudden, the final product just doesn’t look the way you expect! In these moments, often all you need to do is add a twist! Lateral movement on a flat plane almost always shoots better than something coming at the camera from a diagonal or straight line. If you have something on the diagonal, pulling the movement towards the flat line can do the trick! We give our dancers the visual cue of dancing between two panes of glass, a super narrow hallway, or even being the piece of bread in the toaster!

Where do you start?

This is also where you might have heard Rachel say, “It begins and ends with the supporting leg!” When we set up the supporting leg, then the hip line, and lastly, the shoulder line (in opposition to the hip line for a twist), we get a photo that might not feel great, but looks amazing! It’s almost a guaranteed recipe for success. Crossed body lines ( a fourth position, developpé or battement deviant for example) are great examples of where the twist can be applied. The same goes with an extended leg, attitude devant and a parallel passé. Another particularly useful time to add a twist?? When shooting male dancers!! A twist can make a dancer’s upper body appear more masculine and abdominals more toned.

Muscular male dancer in dark lighting on one knee photographed by Rachel Neville

For more information and a demonstration, check out our educational videos for dancers and photographers!

Renee Lee

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