Ferndale dancers are focus of new photo exhibit – Times-Standard

Ferndale dancers are focus of new photo exhibit – Times-Standard


The beauty of dance has been captured by photographer Matt Knowles for a new exhibit showing in April at the C Street Studios, 208 C St. in Eureka.

“Dance in Shadow and Light” will be hanging inside the workspaces of artists Paul Rickard and Stock Schlueter and features dancers from the Ferndale Dance Academy.

“We feel honored to be exhibiting our photographs in Paul and Stock’s gallery space. They are highly respected artists, and we so appreciate that they are granting us the opportunity to exhibit our work to a larger audience,” said Laura East, owner and director of the Ferndale Dance Academy.

She says the idea for this photo exhibit evolved over time.

“In January of this year,” she said, “the Ferndale Dance Academy celebrated its 20th anniversary. In commemoration, Matt Knowles, who is also a website designer, and I worked to redesign and launch a new studio website. We then decided  that a new website called for new photos, so we arranged a photo shoot. Matt has taken the photos for our studio since we opened, so it was only natural that we would work together on this.”

Photographer Matt Knowles says that most of his "favorite photos that I have taken the last 25 years have been with ballet dancers." (Photo by Matt Knowles)
Photographer Matt Knowles says that most of his “favorite photos that I have taken the last 25 years have been with ballet dancers.” (Photo by Matt Knowles)

The photo shoot proved to be “quite an interesting day,” East said, because Ferndale suffered a power outage that lasted for several hours.

“One family brought a generator to the studio so that Matt could continue to shoot without having to reschedule,” East said. “This lent itself to creative problem solving where lighting was concerned and, ultimately, highly atmospheric  photographs with an intimate quality that draw you in. It also inspired the title of the exhibit, ‘Dance in Shadow and Light.’ We literally had no
choice but to work with shadow and sparse lighting.”

Knowles has been a photographer since the late 1970s and opened his business, Aesthetic Design & Photography, in 1999. He and his wife moved to Ferndale in 2000.

Over the years, Knowles has won numerous awards at both the Humboldt County Fair and the Redwood Acres Fair in the professional divisions, including Best of Show. He’s been photographing Ferndale Dance Academy dancers since the studio opened in 2003.

“I have been working with Ferndale Dance Academy since the beginning,” Knowles said. “I  have also worked with numerous other dancers in my own work. I love working with dancers as they are creative posers and it makes my job a  lot easier. Most of my favorite photos that I have taken the last 25 years have been with ballet dancers.”

He added, “I tend to use very dramatic lighting in my studio work. When working outdoors, you’re pretty much at the mercy of what nature gives you, and here in Humboldt County, Mother Nature can be a pretty fickle lighting director. But indoors, I’m the creator, and I love being able to set the mood by intricately controlling the light just how I want it.”

The dance photos in this current show “illustrate the versatility of our dancers and represent the wide range of styles that we offer at the Ferndale Dance Academy, including ballet, contemporary, lyrical, tap, hip hop, jazz and
tumbling,” East said. The photographed dancers range in age from 12 to young adult, she noted.

All of the dancers in the images will be traveling to Santarém, Portugal from July 10 to 15 for a cross-cultural dance exchange with Círculo Cultural Scalabitano, a dance school certified by the Royal Academy of Dance. The artistic and cultural exchange was developed by East and Vítor Murta with the support of Santarém’s Minister of Culture.

“Dancers from both countries will take classes in  a variety of styles for seven hours a day taught by instructors from both dance studios,” East said. “The intensive will conclude with a collaborative performance, which will include a piece created during the intensive featuring the dancers from both countries.”

The Ferndale dancers are working to raise $10,000 to cover their airfare and lodging, East said.

“They have a GoFundMe page and have held several fundraisers,” she said. “Anyone who would like to help support them may contact the Ferndale Dance Academy at 707-496-0805 for further information.”

The dancers will also be holding a donation-based bake sale during Arts Alive! on April 1 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the C Street Studios.