The many hats of a dance company photographer | Backstage | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The many hats of a dance company photographer

click to enlarge Kitoko Chargois - CP PHOTO: JARED MURPHY
CP photo: Jared Murphy
Kitoko Chargois

Name: Kitoko Chargois

Work: Company photographer, communications and administrative director, and residency program coordinator at PearlArts Studios, the creative space for multi-media dance group STAYCEE PEARL Dance Project and Soy Sos 

How did you become company photographer?

I pursue photography both as a hobby and professionally. I graduated [from] Chatham University with a degree in communications and photography. I was hired to help Staycee Pearl, co-executive/artistic director, with a residency project that was launching. I saw that there were other ways that I could plug in. One of the first projects, I brought my camera and asked, “Do you want me to take photos?” She said yes and from there, it continued. Everything that’s happened since has been completely organic, and I love every minute of it. 

How does working with the company in other capacities impact your work as a photographer?

I see the project as in development, so that gives different layers I can work with. Everyone has a part to play in the creation. Staycee has a vision everyone interprets. That extends to me photographically, because there is a narrative to the work; there are ideas, there’s a vision behind it, but I have the freedom to interpret it from my own perspective. Sometimes I am present for rehearsal and see it in progress so I tend to get a little bit of a rhythm, thinking about the music myself. It’s a little bit of an internal dance.

Which gives you a different relationship with the work than you’d have if working from outside.

I know when certain things are going to happen, I know when certain jumps are going to happen. But it’s really personal for me. The company is something I’m invested in. I’m close to the dancers, the producer. My work is very emotionally driven and I think that shows.

What’s the best part of your work?

I’m not just doing one thing. I have a tendency to feel stagnant when I have to have a routine. I love that every day is different, and I get to use all of the skill sets that I came out of college with. On top of that, I get to add to those skill sets. My job is just basically continuously learning, constantly learning how to serve our company better.

Do you have a dance background?

Before I started, my point of knowledge when it came to dance was mainstream media. One of the first things I appreciated was that Staycee’s choreography was so accessible I didn’t need to have that background to enjoy it or to get something from it.

What’s your favorite memory?

Every time we have a show, I gain a new favorite memory. While I’ve been in rehearsals and see the dancers do their thing, when we premiere it, it transforms right before my eyes.  It’s not what I was seeing before, not what I had expected. Whatever new piece we do always seems to be better than the last piece we did.

Do you think that transformation is due to the communication between the performers and the audience, the extra element in the room?

That definitely plays into it. The difference between photographing the dress rehearsal and photographing the performance is pretty noticeable. There’s a certain energy that just comes to life in the dancers when they’re on stage and it’s showtime, do or die time. 

What are your goals?

Keep building on to the knowledge base I’ve acquired. I think all skills are intersectional; we use them together in conjunction. We have a few things coming up. We’re a little bit in transition. I can’t give anything away right now, but just stay tuned. It’s going to be awesome. 


Comments (0)

Add a comment