Inspired by his background, photographer Omar Z. Robles has been capturing the graceful and subtle movements of ballet dancers for over 4 years now. From Melbourne to Rio De Janeiro, Omar lets the dancers bodies tell their own stories, often juxtaposing their elegant beauty with gritty urban environments. “Before being a photographer I studied and performed professionally as a Mime,” he told Bored Panda. “I found in photography a similar way of creating stories using only the visual language.”
His latest series, Bare Sky Dance, takes place on the rooftops of New York City, with the dancers showing a more vulnerable side by stripping off and posing nude. “The naked body speaks volumes to our fragile yet mystical and graceful existence,” Omar said. “We are born naked and it was a naked act (in most cases) that brought life to each and everyone of us.”
“I normally photograph dancers in the streets, but I thought the rooftops would be an interesting twist whilst providing some privacy at the moment of photographing.”
As well as the stunning images that his series has produced, Omar delves into the background stories of the dancers themselves, bringing their stories to life and providing an interesting context to the photoshoot. “Because of the nature of this series and the current social climate, I wanted the dancers to become the voice of the images,” Omar told us.
One dancer, Alexandra Jacob, shared her very personal motivation to be a part of the series. “I chose to participate to de-stigmatize the notion that nudity has to always be associated with sexuality in a visual setting, as well as to reclaim my personal right of consent after a silencing of my history with sexual assault,” she wrote. “This project was incredibly liberating in a sense that like being on stage, I was able to shed my outer layers and uncover the freedom of self-worth.”
Another participant, Terk Lewis, aimed to encourage people to embrace their differences and not feel hindered by a perceived ‘ideal image’ that the dance world may have promoted in the past. “What appealed to me about posing for this series is the fact that I have a very different type of body,” he said. “I don’t necessary look like most dancers, I have tattoos and I am taller than your average male dancer. I want to empower individuals that can relate to me and my image by doing things in the dance world that just a couple of years ago people who looked like me weren’t able to do. I believe there’s inspiration there to be given.”
Omar’s Bare Sky Dance allows his subjects to not only to bare their bodies to the world, but gives them a voice that goes beyond the visual, and gives us a perspective on the highs and lows that come with being a professional dancer. Scroll down below to check out the series for yourself, and visit his blog to learn more about Omar’s work.
“As a dancer, I am innately self-conscious about my body because we tend to be fairly critical of our lines and technique. Being nude might bring even more attention to any potential mistakes or flaws. Things that maybe the everyday person might not notice but a trained dancer would. I chose to work with Omar on his #BareSkyDance series and dared to pose nude because he is a photographer that I have worked with before and I know I can trust to take the photographs that will represent my work well.
Through this images I want to honor the strong and masculine role of the male dancer, particularly the male Asian dancer. I want people to see not only the beauty but also the strong athleticism of the male dancer.
When I grow older, I look forward to coming back to this images and bring back the memories of my youth and the body that I nurtured through my career as a professional dancer. “
“Doing the #BareSkyDance series with Omar was extremely liberating. I have always struggled with my body image. Even recently I have been told by someone in a professional setting that I should not be considered a ballet dancer because of the way my body naturally is shaped. I don’t talk about this often but I am also a victim of sexual assault. The incident has made me even more self conscious of my body and ashamed. The thought of my body not being able to be partially hidden underneath fabric made me cringe. However Omar is someone I trust and someone who I know would capture these images in a way that would be respectful, thought provoking and meaningful. The day we happened to shoot on was cold and rainy, not the typical day one feels inspired to dance on a rooftop naked. Nevertheless standing on the rooftop, my body exposed to the world, I no longer felt self conscious, ashamed and vulnerable, I felt free and proud. When looking at the images I instinctively wanted to pick apart and critique every part of my body but the freeing feeling I felt on that rooftop brought me back down to reality. These images showed how incredible the human body truly is. The fact that I am able to dance and stand on my toes and put my body through such immense stress day after day is amazing. It hasn’t been an easy road but it is so good to feel proud of my perfectly imperfect body.”
“What appealed to me about posing for @OmarZRobles #BareSkyDance series is the fact that I have a very different type of body. I don’t necessary look like most dancers, I have tattoos and I am taller than your average male dancer. Through these nude images I want to encourage other people to embrace their differences and feel supported in being unique and different. I want empower individuals that can relate to me and my image by doing things in the dance world that just a couple of years ago people who looked like me weren’t able to do. I believe there’s inspiration there to be given.”
“As a professional dancer I have done several photo shoots in the past, always highlighting lines, technique and always looking for the esthetics of beauty in the movement or in a pose that can freeze those moments of pure art with our bodies. For the first time I decided to take the risk of showing my body nude, as I am experiencing a very special and unique time in life: the time of pregnancy.
As a dancer, to see drastic changes in your body and to embrace them with happiness is something that you don’t imagine until the moment you live the amazing journey of motherhood, and you realize then that the idea of esthetics and beauty about your body can go beyond the thin long lines we -dancers- always look for. The gift of giving life to a new human, the love of expecting a baby and the feeling of that connection is something that can not be described with words. It becomes a challenge to discover this “new you” who looks different but who also feels powerful at the same time, with a different type of strength that you didn’t know could exist in you.
A dancer is so used to lightness, speed and elasticity… and the absence of these common qualities make you see deeper into this new beauty, this new YOU with curve lines, heavier, slower but with the wonderful blessing of carrying a life inside.
I accepted to be part of the #BareSkyDance Series, to honor the miracle of maternity and my love for dance. I believe every strong woman out there who has experienced the glorious time of pregnancy, regardless her shape, it has so much beauty to share with the world. Pregnancy should always be enjoyed, celebrated and we all women should love our bodies more than ever. I embrace this memorable journey with happiness! When my arabesques aren’t as high as before, when my balance is in a different place, when I can’t show any abdominal muscles and in exchange I show a big and rounded baby bump that I will remember forever, in the most natural and artistic way these pictures have captured at my 32 weeks of pregnancy. Thank you Omar for a wonderful work!”
“I have been following Omar for quite a while on Instagram and I have always admired his work. And for some time, I had wondered how I could get the opportunity to shoot with him. When he posted that he needed more volunteers for his Bare Sky Dance, I knew that was my chance. I have done one other nude dance photo shoot before and I loved it, so I knew I would be comfortable doing this kind of thing again. I enjoy being photographed nude because as a dancer, I see my body as art, and I see my nude body as the rawest version of that art. I do not see it as a sexual or inappropriate thing in a context such as #BareSkyDance. I see it as beauty and nature and freedom. Omar is doing work that captures all of that in a very artistic, professional, and honest way.”
“What a beautiful concept Bare Sky Dance! To be fully naked, vulnerable, open is, in my opinion, the most dangerous thing a person can do and also the most beautiful. I chose to shoot with Omar because his photography, especially this series, captures that essence. It is a beautiful experience to be fully naked and vulnerable, embracing the beauty of the natural state, yet surrounded by the city chaos of New York. The juxtaposition of these two things intrigued me and I think rooftops are the perfect location to capture the raw beauty of both; a view of the city from above the chaos where natural beauty can come to life.”
“With the Bare Sky Dance series, I hope a feeling of liberation is conveyed in some way, shape, or form. I also love the juxtaposition of the soft vulnerable energy of the dancer, contrasted with the often harsh, steely surroundings. That to me is about a person keeping their principles, or faith, or what have you, in despite of everything going on that is out of your control.”
” “Don’t hesitate. Go for it. Be Epic.
These are three mantras I repeat to myself day in and day out to survive the hustle and bustle of NYC. Without them, I don’t think I would have survived this long in a metropolis that is well known for its competitiveness. In order to make it here, you have to be one thing and one thing only; FEARLESS.
After almost a year’s hiatus from the camera, Omar invited me to be a part of his #Bareskydance series. I hesitated to agree because I was coming out of a break-up, and the vulnerability I was feeling left me no desire to be in front of a camera.
When I met again with Omar, he didn’t know it, but I was feeling the lowest I had ever felt. I felt raw and open and exposed on the inside. But I knew in my gut that it was important to take charge of my confidence, and one step toward doing that was to put myself back in front of the camera, nude.
In the nude and visible on a New York City rooftop, that openness and rawness was now exposed on the outside as well. “
“As a model, a dancer (and hell just as a woman) people often ask me to pose nude. I usually politely decline because I want my art to be about more then my naked body. Being naked is completely natural and normal but also easy. Easy to look good in a photo, easy for people to like it. But when Omar asked me to pose for his Bare Sky Dance it was about the beauty and simplicity of dancing completely free, something that took my brain a LONG time to understand. Dance is freedom to me. It’s not about technique, not about getting the best roles or being on the biggest stage. Just being present in this moment, feeling only what my body is doing, with my mind silent. For me posing for Omar’s new series was a celebration in the freedom that dance has given me. The freedom to be proud of my art and the body that helps me do it.”
“When Omar contacted me asking if I was interested in shooting for his new series I didn’t know the concept yet, I just said yes! Then he told me it was called #BareSkyDance. Images of a wide sky, freedom, skyscrapers shaping the horizon of New York City in contrast to the naked body of a dancer sounded beautiful in my head.
I have worked with Omar several times, in fact he was the first photographer I worked with in New York, and I lay all my trust to his ideas and visions. Shooting dancers he always manage to capture the vulnerable moments with an eye for well thought composition and light.
We had the shoot an unusually cold summer Sunday morning in Brooklyn, it was raining and the sky grey. The weather and the hard rain came in play of how the pictures turned out: dramatic and sensitive. I was completely soaked and my pointe shoes too but that all disappeared while I was in front of the camera lens.
The city has so much magic and in this series Omar takes it to the rooftops which is a big part of New York characteristics. This shoot was also extra special for me because it was the day I moved back to Europe after 6 years in the city. I felt like the city was crying and #BareSkyDance wrapped up my time in New York coming here hungry with big dreams. The series has emotions and its celebrates the dancer on top of New York city in an astonishing way.”
“I chose to participate in Omar Z Robles’s Bare Sky Dance photography series to de-stigmatize the notion that nudity has to always be associated with sexuality in a visual setting, as well as to reclaim my personal right of consent after a silencing my history with sexual assault. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with either sexuality or nudity, I just prefer to not have them be the basis of how I present myself to the world. I personally feel there are ways to express oneself in a more transparent fashion without being as overtly erotic.
When agreeing to taking part in this project, I was allowing myself be a part of a more vulnerable type of shoot. I consented to working with Omar (who I have gained trust collaborating with for three years), I consented to baring my form unclothed, and I consented to shoot in a more private roof setting. The essential key is that I made a personal choice; I gave it my approval and not someone else’s. This project was incredibly liberating in a sense that like being on stage, I was able to shed my outer layers and uncover the freedom of self-worth.”