Ballet star highlights plastic waste with swimming pool exhibition

Dance For The Sea, Royal Ballet soloist Fernando Montano goes underwater at Kentish Town Swimming Po

Dance For The Sea, Royal Ballet soloist Fernando Montano goes underwater at Kentish Town Swimming Pool for a photography project to highlight the impact of plastic in our oceans - Credit: Archant

An immersive exhibition at the bottom of Kentish Town Swimming Pool shows photographs of Royal Ballet soloist Fernando Montano surrounded by a sea of rubbish

Fernando Montano ballet dancer in Kentish Town Swimming Pool

Fernando Montano ballet dancer in Kentish Town Swimming Pool - Credit: Archant

He's used to dancing the pas de deux on the stage of the Royal Opera House, but Royal Ballet soloist Fernando Montano gave his latest performance underwater at Kentish Town swimming pool.

The Colombian dancer has co-produced a photography exhibtion to shockingly highlight the blight of waste in our oceans and urge us to cut down on single use plastic.

West Hampstead photographer Robin Conway captured him holding poses in the iconic Willes pool, surrounded by a dozen bags of rubbish and recycled plastic art sculptures for Dance of The Sea.

The - literally - immersive exhibition will see 10 images weighted down at the bottom of the pool so that swimmers can contrast the dancer's grace with the ugliness of the plastic waste..

Montaño said: "Our generation may still be able to enjoy the beauty and mystery of the sea, but it is possible that the next one will never really know that we once had the most incredible oceans full of the most incredible animals.

"Being able to communicate an important message brings new depth and scale to this performance, something which is very important to both myself and Robin."

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Conway, who specialises in underwater photography, said: "Fernando came to me with an idea for this project, we discussed what it could be and how it could give us something that is not just a photograph."

During shoots, Conway 'free dives' with just a pair of fins and goggles, holding his breath for up to 90 seconds at a time.

"I'm in the same position as the dancer, except I am holding my camera and talking to them," he says.

"Being underwater slows time down and makes me focus on what the dancer is doing and how they are positioned."

It also throws up challenges for the photographer.

"The light doesn't travel straight but goes in different directions and the colour reacts differently underwater - it can make skin look lifeles and limbs look at odd shapes as though they are dislocated or broken."

Conway hopes the images show "the struggle of the dancer in an alien environment and the challenge to their craft".

"They are used to using the tension of their body and working with gravity. Not having that underwater focuses them on expressing themselves even more and that captures the viewer's imagination."

Some images will be in the foyer of the Grafton Road pool but most of them will be printed on banners and held down at the bottom of the pool by diving weights.

"Swimmers can view the images in their natural environment and experience the same sensations of holding their breath and the pressure of the water on their bodies that we went through to make the image," adds Conway. "At first the pictures look pretty and draw the viewer in. Then they step back, notice a sweet wrapper and realise the dancer is swimming around in plastic, and suddenly the image isn't that nice."

Councillor Simpson, Camden's Cabinet Member for Culture and Communities, said: "We are delighted to welcome the Dance For The Sea project this Summer. The exhibition shines a light on the powerful messages of the catastrophic effect of plastic pollution and provides a platform to explore our own impact on plastic waste and how we can collectively work together to protect our environments."

Dance of the Sea runs at Kentish Town Pool from July 22-28. Admission is free but there is organiers are asking for donations to the Marine Conservation Society.

On July 18 in the Susie Sainsbury Theatre at the Royal Academy of Music on Marylebone Road Fernando Montano and friends hold a fund-raising evening of dance, opera, and classical music in aid of the Marine Conservation Society at 7.30pm.