The PGK Project: Learning to Dance Through a Lens

Mid-flight with Sarah Navarrete, Modern Dancer

© 2013 Gary Allard

I met Peter Kalivas, founder and director of the PGK Project, through our mutual 3rdSpace involvement. Peter was looking to get photographs documenting the choreography and progress for an upcoming show. I routinely dive into personal projects when I have the time and when I saw a chance to work with a group of talented modern dancers, I jumped at it. This had everything I love: art, movement, music, athleticism, and a new challenge.

Peter Kalivas, PGK Project © 2013 Gary Allard

© 2013 Gary Allard

My first few days of shooting started out rough – I missed countless action shots, cropped off arms, legs, heads. Basically I had no idea what to expect or when to expect it. After a week or so and hours of watching rehearsals, I started to get it. I could anticipate what to expect almost as though I was learning to dance along with them. By the third week of rehearsals, I had developed a familiarity with many of the dancers, their styles, and how to follow along with the choreography.

PGK Project, © 2013 Gary Allard

© 2013 Gary Allard

PGK Project, © 2013 Gary Allard

© 2013 Gary Allard

The documentary aspect was only a portion of the project. I needed to set up some sessions where I had more control. After sketching out some lighting schemes, I scheduled time with Sarah Navarrete, one of the PGK Project dancers whose work had immediately stood out to me. We spent a long day shooting and exploring styles which has pushed forward new ideas for where to take the project next.

Sarah Navarrete, PGK Project © 2013 Gary Allard

© 2013 Gary Allard

What started out as a short term collaboration has gained more momentum than I’d expected. That’s usually how these personal projects work. It’s always an unexpected outcome with new perspectives and great relationships. I shot some photos I’d never considered making and that has inspired me in ways I would  have not otherwise known. I plan to continue work with the PGK Project and building a larger body of work. And who knows, I may come out of it with some spiffy new dance moves, too.

(To read more about my approach to personal projects check out my recent guest-blog article on A Sporting Life: “Refining Your Vision Through Personal Work”)

All photos © 2013 Gary Allard / Gary Allard Photography


  1. by Shelly Bowen on August 2, 2013  5:11 pm Reply

    This is really amazing work, Gary. I'd love for all my content strategy clients to get "behind-the-scenes" as well as polished photos like these to help share their brand stories more effectively. Chills!

    Thanks for sharing your creative process.

  2. by eileen on August 4, 2013  7:26 pm Reply

    What a breath taking photo--love it.--grandma

  3. by Lola Fredrickson on September 24, 2013  2:23 pm Reply

    These are beautiful photos and reflect the daily lives and work of dancers. It's a very, very demanding job, but the end result looks so effortless and fantastic. It's wonderful that you could capture this.

  4. by Peter G. Kalivas on October 31, 2013  11:42 am Reply

    Gary, Thank you so much for capturing our 'essence'. You are super, awesome, fantastic, amazing and I can not wait to do more and more together. I would like 12,000 coffee table books please : )

    With the warmest of regards, Peter

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