Where to Dance

Where to Dance Interview: Celia Walmsley

Celia Walmsley has danced since age four. She has a background in arts management and has worked at the helm of the Royal New Zealand Ballet, Tempo Dance Festival, Taupo Erupt Arts Festival and PANNZ Arts Market.

These days she’s based in Wanaka and Wellington, focussing full time on her photography, specialising in dance and people at Stagebox Photography.


The moment I fell in love with dance was ..

When my parents took me to Petrushka at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.


I came to dance photography ..

While studying photography, I was working full time at Sadlers Wells Theatre, London.  I had to specialise and dance photography was the obvious marriage of my two loves – dance and photography.  With a press pass to Sadlers Wells, I was honoured to photograph many of the world’s greats; The Royal Ballet, Pina Bausch, Ballet Rambert, Nederlands Dance Theatre and others.  I was in heaven!


Three of my favourite dances are ..

To watch –Tumutumu by Louise Poutiki Bryant and RNZB’s Firebird by Loughlan Prior

To do – Salsa Rueda (the less you think and more you feel, the better it is)


What defines me as a dance photographer is ..

Well I’m going to have to quote Loughlan Prior here-

Whether capturing rehearsal images, stage photography or collaborating on a specific in-studio project, it is always a pleasure to work with Celia. Put simply, her skill in understanding dance aesthetics and the body in motion, along with the inquisitive relationship she has with her subject matter, makes for the most beautiful images.

Loughlan Prior, Choreographer.


What I tell dancers I photograph to think about is ..

Relax, have fun, take your time and breeeathe.   It’s your time in the spotlight.

Focus on how you feel.  I’ll worry about how you look.


My top dance etiquette tip is ..

Be kind


One of the health benefits of dance I most appreciate now is ..

That you can do more for longer if you dance through your life.


My dance hero / role model is ..

Fred Astaire.  Although he wasn’t the best looking or most natural born dancer (his sister Adelle was the natural star), through hard work he perfected his skill and presence to become one of the world’s most iconic dancers.


I would like to thank ..

Patricia Barker, Artistic Director of Royal NZ Ballet for having me in the studio to photograph the dancers and choreographers making work.  Photographing the process of dance being made is my happy place.


My hot tip for taking care of my body is ..

Keep moving


One of the highlights of my career has been ..

Photographing Pina Bausch Tanz Theater Wuppertal’s Victor at Sadlers Well.  I photographed on black and white film in low light.  I only had 36 shots and then had to change film in the dark without making a sound or movement.  You couldn’t take thousands of shots per performance like you can now. 


I’d like to see the dance industry in NZ ..

Survive this hiatus and get back to dancing together again.


What I’m up to at the moment is ..

My latest exciting project is creating Dance Masterpiece photography for young dancers. 

Dance Masterpiece is an opportunity for young dancers to have their own iconic dance photo showing their skill and presence as a piece of wall art to treasure forever.  These are also extra special in a world where they can’t be on stage much at the moment.

I photograph the young dancers in the studio and then, after their photoshoot, I create a stunning classical ballet or contemporary style background to complete their art masterpiece.  

My most recent collaboration for Dance Masterpiece has been with the wonderful Anna Thomas and dancers at Dance Wanaka.   

If you’re interested in offering Dance Masterpiece to your students at your school in any dance form, please get in touch -  celia@stagebox.co.nz.

© Photographs copyright Celia Walmsley 2022