Last December I wrote an Article for LA Splash Magazine about Misty Copeland teaching a Master Ballet Class in San Pedro, California, featuring students from the San Pedro Ballet School. That is where I met Cindy Bradley who, along with her husband Patrick, owns the San Pedro Ballet School.
Shooting Misty was one of the highlights of 2015, and garnered many wonderful responses to the photos I shot that day. Most treasured is a voice mail I received from Irvin Vodovoz, Cindy Bradley’s father, whom I met and talked with about Misty on the day of the Master Class. Upon seeing the photos of Misty in my Article Mr. Vodovoz called me and left a voice mail which I have saved, and treasure to this day.
Meeting Cindy Bradley, and shooting Misty Copeland, along with all of the Ballet students taking Misty’s class prompted me to tell Cindy about my friend George Simian, an amazing photographer, who also teaches and host workshops. I asked Cindy if she would be interested in having George do a workshop at the San Pedro Ballet School, with the students and dancers from the school. Cindy was agreeable and I put her in touch with George. It took almost a year, to get compatible schedules and work out the details, and finally the first Bodies in Motion, Ballet Workshop was held on November 13, 2016, at the San Pedro Ballet School, in San Pedro, California. I wanted to be a part of this historic first time event.
I’ve been a photographer a long time and have been fortunate to have worked and studied with some of the greats. Men like Peter Gowland, Mario Casilli, László Willinger, and Ken Churnish. I consider George Simian to be a friend, and my modern day mentor. Whether it be painting, writing, or photography I always enjoy taking workshops and classes from pros whose work I admire. In today’s world of digital photography things change every day. I met George Simian years ago, when I signed up for my first digital class at Samy’s Camera in Los Angeles. I’ve been buying my cameras and gear at Samy’s Camera, quite literally for decades.
George Simian is recognized as one of the best photo instructors in the United States. That’s based on a survey by Photo District News, which rated George in the top 13! What I find so valuable is George’s tireless energy. The `Ballet Workshop’ at the San Pedro Ballet School, is actually the first workshop I’ve taken with George in a few years. Nevertheless, George is always very generous with his knowledge and responds promptly, kindly, and in detail whenever I sent his an email asking any sort of question. George's boundless knowledge is quite amazing.
George is one of those rare people who excels in his craft professionally, and who has a special ability to translate his knowledge and communicate it effectively to students of every level of experience. George is a regular instructor at Samy’s Education, where he teaches a continuing range of workshops including Bodies in Motion workshop’s where students will learn to capture the action at great locations like the Santa Monica Trapeze School, and now the San Pedro Ballet School. Some of George’s other workshops include; `Pro Lighting Fundamentals,’ `Location Lighting,’ along with classes about `Photographing Your Children.’
George Simian is a Los Angeles based Commercial Photographer with over 25 years experience. George is an educator who additionally teaches ongoing classes at UCLA Extension, as well as for the MAC Group, Phase One, and several others. When you take a George Simian workshop, be prepared for non-stop learning. There is a lot packed into a day where George always encourages questions and interaction. Students need to know the basics, for these are not beginning classes. Nevertheless George will politely answer all the `basic' questions from students who do not know how to operate their cameras or equipment.
I arrived at the class early and watched along the sidelines, as George and his assistants unpacked, and set up all the gear for the workshop that day. Four sets of strobe packs, heads, and all the accessories needed. A large Black background and Soft Boxes were erected. It is an incredible amount of work to do Lighting and Set-up for a whole group of photographers.
The Bodies in Motion classes are usually set up to shoot in groups consisting of three or four photographers in each group. Typically there are three different setups so that each group is constantly shooting a new setup with a new subject. Within each group, one person will shoot, while the others assist the photographer with varying task.
The Ballet Workshop was a little different and more complex. With One setup, four photographers shooting with strobes, and another group shooting unconnected to learn `Strobe-O-Scopic’ effects.
Students are constantly shooting, working, and learning every minute there. A great camaraderie develops because everyone is working towards the same goal of learning to capture and how to create better quality images. It’s great fun, and George keeps the classes well “on- Pointe.” Critique of your work, methods, and results occur all through the day. I value George’s critique because it is always intended to make the work better, to teach how to get better results. George’s feedback is honest, spot on, and comes from years of successfully navigating this ever changing field as a professional.
There is homework, as Students must provide RAW or retouched images to George within a week after the class so that George can supply the dancers (in this case) with professionally edited and retouched images for their time during the class.
The wonderful dancers from the San Pedro Ballet School, who participated in this first Bodies in Motion Ballet Workshop were; Amie Kilgore (blue dress), Tracy Jones (partnered Juan), Enrique Anaya (Orange), Juan Wing, Helena Ghekiere (hair in bun black leo), Lauren Ortega (second girl in blue dress), Danielle Ciaramitaro (black tutu).
San Pedro City Ballet (SPCB) was established in 1994 by nationally recognized dancers and teachers, Cynthia and Patrick David Bradley, as a not-for-profit dance company serving greater Los Angeles. It is home to American Ballet Theatre superstar Misty Copeland, who was discovered by the Bradley’s at age 13. The company performs The Nutcracker annually at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro, as well as produces original modern works for a variety of venues throughout Southern California. In addition, San Pedro City Ballet, through its outreach programs, holds performance workshops throughout the city of Los Angeles. Thousands of residents see the company perform each year.
The Mission of the San Pedro City Ballet is to bring Ballet to the entire Los Angeles Community. The Bradley’s work tirelessly towards this end. Cindy, an accomplished Ballerina herself, began her studies at the school of the Atlanta Ballet Company. Later she studied with New York City Ballet’s School of American Ballet. She joined the Virginia Ballet Company, under the direction of Oleg Tupine; the Louisville Ballet Company, under the direction of Richard Munro; the San Diego Ballet Company, under the direction of Keith Martin; and the North San Diego County Ballet, under the direction of Victor Moreno. As well as choreographing many original works, she has staged The Nutcracker, Coppelia, and Swan Lake. Cindy Bradley co-founded Jetsetter Productions in 2005 and created Shag With a Twist with world-renowned artist Josh Agle, aka Shag. The dance musical premiered at the Los Angeles Theatre Center and won an ovation award for best costume design, was nominated for eight Lester Horton Awards and had an extended run in Las Vegas in 2007.
San Pedro Ballet School offers classes in ballet, tap, jazz, modern, contemporary, hip hop, and gymnastics for dancers of all ages (3 yrs.-adult). In addition, exercise classes such as yoga and Zumba are offered for adults.
Students age three and up are invited to participate in the San Pedro City Ballet’s annual production of The Nutcracker. All students have the opportunity to perform in the school’s annual summer recital every June. This exciting production features costumes, music, and professional lighting, and is held at the historic Warner Grande Theater in San Pedro. Most rehearsals are held during regular classes (starting at the intermediate level, dancers may need to attend additional rehearsals).
The Bodies in Motion Ballet Workshop was inspired with energetic creativity by George Simian, Cindy Bradley, and all of the superb dancers from the San Pedro Ballet School. It was a great event to participate in and I’m proud to have been a small part of. Thanks George and Cindy. “ Let’s do it again !” If you have a desire to create as a photographer, or as a dancer, you can do no better than to learn from George Simian and Cindy Bradley. Tell them Greg Autry sent you.
Watch for my upcoming Articles here in LA Splash Magazine, next, about the Dickens Fair. The Dickens Fair is a Holiday tradition in San Francisco, beginning November 19th, and not to be missed.
* All Images Copyrighted with ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Photography by Greg Autry*
Additional photos by George Simian and Beata Bernina*