The photography exhibit features BalletMet dancers in contemporary designs

The latest exhibit at Angela Meleca Gallery is a marriage of ballet, fashion and photography.

The display features poignant photos of BalletMet dancers dressed in contemporary designs by Maria Pinto, a Chicago-based designer whose clothing has been seen on the first lady and Oprah, among others.

"I love how I have found this link between fashion and dancers," said Zaire Kacz, the photographer, who photographed the dancers at the Athletic Club and the Union Station Arch. She celebrated the exhibit at the gallery's private opening on Thursday, Feb. 27.

BalletMet dancers were there too, dressed in designs from Pinto's latest collection, M2057. Pinto attended as well.

The exhibit opens to the public today, Feb. 28, and will remain until March 16. We talked with Pinto and Kacz about how they got involved with the BalletMet shoot. Read their answers below.

-Taylor Starek, @taylorstarek

Maria Pinto, designer:

How did your work end up in the BalletMet shoot?

Well it kind of goes back to [BalletMet's artistic director] Edwaard Liang-we worked together on a ballet for the Joffrey here in Chicago, and I created the costumes for that. Then when he was working on the BalletMet photo shoot, he contacted me and asked if he could use some of my designs for the campaign.

What are those designs like?

These are all pieces from my archives from past collections. They're some of my more intricate pieces, which was really kind of exciting to give them a new life. There's a beautiful mimosa yellow gown from my 2010 collection. It took 25 yards of fabric to create. So more of my intricate work. There are a lot of hand embellishments.

Describe your aesthetic.

My aesthetic, especially with the new M2057 collection, it's a combination of my past work in terms of construction and embellishment but really bringing it down to a really urban, modern, clean aesthetic. It's a really high function, high-energy kind of collection.

What inspires you?

Dance has been an influence a few times-the energy around movement. I guess the yellow dress, for example, from the 2010 collection, that was all about tension and movement. Other times I've used sculptors, culture. My inspiration kind of comes from everywhere. I'm always collecting things.

What attracts you to dance and designing for dance?

The number one piece is movement. With everyday fashion, it comes back to function. There's a limited range of movement. So what's really exciting and dynamic about dance is the fabric takes on a whole new life because of the way the body is moving inside of it. I like the opportunity because it takes me out of the confines of the fashion industry and the reality of what women need and can and can't wear on everyday basis.

Zaire Kacz, photographer:

How did you get involved with the BalletMet shoot?

I've been a fashion photographer for more than 13 years, with extensive work in editorial. So four years ago I moved from Miami to Asheville, N.C., where I rediscovered my passion for dance photography. Being here in Asheville, I've had the opportunity to work with many dancers that come for a summer company called Terpsicorps. Last summer I worked with BalletMet dancers David [Ward] and Emily [Gotschall], among others, to create my most recent work "The Reborn Series." BalletMet's artistic director Edwaard Liang saw the images and called me. We talked about translating the aesthetic from that work, which was minimalist but passionate and powerful, to the new images for BalletMet. We also talked about working with Maria Pinto's fashion designs to create a fashion editorial.

Can you describe your vision for the photos?

I immediately felt connected to putting together fashion and art and the body of a dancer. In my vision, I saw the dancers bringing to life the exuberant and colorful designs of Maria Pinto with boldness, grace and subtly.

Any particular challenges?

I love challenges. Actually, I think this shoot itself was a challenge because coming from fashion, for me, the elements of fashion are very important. I always want to tell a story in my fashion editorials, so the dresses, they have a meaning. That was a challenge because I also wanted the dancers to feel comfortable. They needed to feel free to be creative with their own movement and interpret Edwaard Liang's choreography. That was the most challenging thing. But I think we did great as a team. They will work until they get perfection, and I love that.

Photos courtesy of BalletMet
Dancers in photo top, right: David Ward, Adrienne Benz and Gabriel Smith
Dancers in photo above: David Ward and Adrienne Benz