Since childhood, I have been fascinated by ballet. The seemingly smooth, effortless, while simultaneously mesmerizing polished moves; the costumes; the physiques; the music. All of this comes together to camouflage the reality behind ballet: years of hard work, challenges, injuries, and physical pain. Furthermore, the need to be “perfect” on stage is always present. It takes an exceptional type of person to endure all this. The type of human being I like to photograph.
Like a painter discussing his masterpiece, the ballet dancer will rarely be satisfied with the outcome of his work. This innate need to achieve excellence is the motivation behind the long hours of practice for a show. This is one of the many subjects we discussed with ballet dancer Giacomo De Leidi, during a trip to Israel. We met Giacomo through a mutual friend of ours. The acclaimed graphic designer and photographer, Sans Serif. “A move is never perfect. Even when practicing for 40 hours a week in preparation for a show, a move is never perfect,” declares Giacomo while putting on his ballet slippers in preparation for our photoshoot. There is something graceful and delicate about Giacomo. The smooth way he talks and moves some might say is characteristic of a ballet dancer.
Born in Italy, Giacomo started dancing at the age of 6. His mother saw in him that special talent characteristic of a dancer and decided to sign him to a dance school. “I was dancing all the time,” he says smiling. “I would not stop. I would watch TV and try to imitate the dancing scenes in music videos.” Though this passion continued to grow, he was only dancing for pleasure. All of this changed when at the age of 14 he received the opportunity of a lifetime. “My life changed that year,” he states. “I was accepted to the best ballet school in Italy, the Teatro alla Scala Academy.”
With his entrance into the academy, Giacomo had the first glimpse of the reality faced by ballet dancers. “I thought about giving up. I wanted to give up. The first period at the academy was hard. Extremely hard. Everything and everyone was so strict. What used to be pleasure became pain.” Giacomo credits his family as the motor that kept him going. “Without my family and friends, and especially my mother, I would not have been able to carry on. I managed because of them and their support.” In 2014, Giacomo graduated from the academy. “I felt such pride back then, and still do to this day,” he says smiling.
When discussing his most challenging show, Giacomo quickly remembers 2014. At the time, he was a dancer with the Estonian National Ballet. “I was dancing a piece choreographed by the magnificent Wayne McGregor: Symbiont(s).” McGregor is an award-winning British choreographer internationally acclaimed for his techniques of movement which integrate dance with visual arts and technology. “It was a challenging, and technically difficult piece,” Giacomo continues. “It took me months of work and hard effort to manage that piece.” Consequently, Giacomo remembers this moment as his most memorable dance in ballet. “I remember that after the first time I did it, during the bows at the end of the piece, I cried. I was overwhelmed with emotions for the hard work paid off.”
Giacomo moved to Israel a couple of years ago through a work visa and permit sponsored by the Israel Ballet. Moving to Israel is not something that can be easily managed due to the country’s immigration laws. “I would have never thought I would be living in Israel!”, he states. “I met an Israeli choreographer in Italy who suggested I should audition and join the Israel Ballet. The rest is history!” When questioned about his life in Israel, he responds: “I am glad I did it. Someday I hope to go back to Europe; back to Italy. But, this is a fascinating country. The people are so friendly, and open. Very welcoming. They really enjoy life and every moment it has to offer.”
When discussing the future, Giacomo is very clear about his ambitions and goals. “My dream is to become a principal dancer. I work day and night towards this goal; nonstop. In the meantime, I want to continue to work with amazing choreographers and people who push me to give the best of me.” Furthermore, what would Giacomo like to do once he is older? “To teach ballet, of course! To teach others what I am passionate about, and love so much.” – GM
Camera: Nikon D810
Lens: Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED; Nikon 85mm f/1.8G
Location: Tel Aviv, Israel.