Monday, February 14, 2011

Dancers Among Us Takes on Chinatown

This month I've had the good fortune to be photographed by behind-the-scenes documentarian Geoff Legg. He's responsible for many of the fantastic photos you've seen in recent blogs. I'm lucky I came up with the idea for Dancers Among Us before he did, because he's got a future as a prominent dance photographer if he wants it. Once again, his images will help tell this story.

Last week I spent the afternoon in Chinatown shooting Dancers Among Us with Heather Lang, a performer in the Broadway show "Spiderman." Caleb Custer, from Design Brooklyn, was videotaping the shoot for my upcoming series of web videos (this week I'm releasing the first video- keep an eye on my Facebook fan page for a post).

As usual, I had no specific plans. Heather has great energy, so I figured we'd just improvise. I was attracted to the colors in the streets, but I didn't see a lot of potential for interesting scenarios. Plus it was (once again) really cold and windy, and I didn't think Spiderman could stand to lose another cast member to injury. So I decided to keep the jumping to interior locations.

I came across a store called Mercury. It had teddy bears in the window and a bed prominently displayed in the center of the room. That's irresistible! We walked inside and I asked if I could take a photo on their bed. Since the "yes" came so easily, I then asked if the young man behind the counter could join her. Yes again!

I was loving Chinatown (maybe a language barrier was working in my favor). I turned to Heather, "You can't be wearing jeans, you're on a bed! Let's do it naked." Apparently there wasn't a language barrier after all, because everyone in the store stopped and stared at me (including Heather). "Okay, not a great idea. Do you sell pajamas?" Not only did they sell them, they had a pair that was custom fitted to Heather's body and perfectly matched the interior. I handed Heather a blue teddy bear and asked her to pretend it was Christmas morning. "And try not to break the bed when you land."

Next I wanted to find a fish market. That would seem to be an easy task in Chinatown, but not in the winter. When we finally found one, I asked to borrow a hat, apron, coat, and gloves and have Heather jump around while holding a huge fish and spraying a hose.

I didn't understand why my request was immediately and unequivocally denied.

So I whipped out my big guns. "Did you happen to see my four page spread in the NY Daily News? Here, let me show you."

Needless to say, he was unimpressed.

My offer of a monetary exchange was equally unimpressive.

So we found another market and practiced the jump together outside. This time I wouldn't ask for permission.

That didn't go over very well either. After two jumps, I heard a very loud, "Enough!" And my Nikon had decided to freeze up during those two jumps.

So we returned to the original market with a new plan. If we buy some fish and pose in the street, we should be able to fire off a bunch of shots before they scream at us. We decided on anchovies. Much to my surprise, Heather was willing to put one in her mouth. I asked her if she could eat the anchovy and do a back bend.

We didn't get admonished at all. On the contrary, they invited us inside to shoot some more. This taught me a very valuable lesson- "leggy blond dancer" is an international language.

We said goodbye to Heather and sped downtown to meet Ade Chike for a sunset photo on Wall Street. Ade was a finalist on last season's So You Think You Can Dance. Next week I'll blog all about our adventures together, but here's a preview. I said, "So what would you like to do, Ade?" And he replied, "Well, I do like to jump!"