Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dancers Among Us Heats Up in Baltimore

The enthusiasm dancers have shown to participate in Dancers Among Us has been humbling. I have never paid anyone to participate, yet I have had the good fortune of working with talented and creative artists who are always willing to spend long hours pushing their bodies to the limits, simply for a photograph.

This week may have taken the cake. On Friday, Rachel Bell from Dance/USA in Washington, DC rented a car and drove two hours to meet me in Baltimore. The temperature reached 107 degrees, and the southern humidity was in full swing. It was oppressive!

This was the third time Rachel has driven from DC to work with me. The results of our past efforts were recounted in an earlier blog- "Dancers Among Us Celebrates America". For Independence Day, Rachel produced these two stunning photos:

Apparently the previous trips weren't enough, and Rachel braved the sweltering heat for another adventure. We met at the Inner Harbor; I wanted to use the USS Constellation as a backdrop. Rachel jumped 28 times as I laid on steaming asphalt for the best angle to capture the moment. We were both just a wee bit drenched as we reviewed the images.

On paper I liked all the elements- the flag matching her dress, the people watching her, the pose, the gorgeous ship- but in practice it looked too busy. Time to move on.

We decided to try a different perspective from Federal Hill, which overlooks the Baltimore skyline. It didn't take long to discover the perfect scenario- a dancer in a red dress draped on a lone cannon perched high above the city. Enticing Rachel to comply was another matter. I'm not sure what concerned her more, the burning heat of the black cannon or the distance of the potential fall.

Rachel secured herself by wrapping her left leg around a steel plate on the cannon. I wanted her to hang farther over the cannon, so I recruited a passer-by to hide behind the base and hold her foot. Nothing like entrusting your life to a stranger (in my defense, he was a pretty strong dude!).

Beautiful! After a mere 170 photos and it was time to stop. But I couldn't drag Rachel all the way from DC for just one photograph, no matter how exciting the experience. We headed into the countryside to a former plantation I've had my eye on for a month. I asked Rachel to bring a "farm girl doing chores" outfit, handed her a pail and pitchfork, and asked her to jump off a high split-rail fence.

It was too high; she nearly sprained her ankle. I assumed we were done; I was satisfied with the cannon shot and grateful she didn't hurt herself. Instead she offered to try again (away from the fence). Gotta love dancers- they just never give up!

This was her first jump-

It's impossible to describe how difficult it is to nail a jump on the first try, let alone while holding a pail and pitchfork, and jumping with a sore ankle. And again, gotta love dancers- they just keep making me look good!

The sun had already set (finally!), and the sky was turning into a deeper shade of blue by the minute. I wanted her position to look a little more purposeful, as if she was rushing to finish her chores before dark. We took 35 more photos and nailed it on the final frame.

That's when I saw the police approaching.

Apparently this site is private property, and I shouldn't have mistaken the warm hue of the porch light for hospitality. I apologized profusely and left with my police record still clean. It's amazing how the police keep arriving after I get my shot- the photography gods are looking out for me. Let's hope they stick around as Dancers Among Us travels west.

Next stop, San Francisco! I hear the police are pretty nice there.

Feel-good postscript: On Federal Hill we ran into Kelli and Mike, a beaming couple who had just gotten engaged. They were ecstatic, at least partly due to Mike's creative proposal:

Can't you see a dancer in a beautiful pose, holding onto the wing with one arm, his body elevated by the force of the wind?

Or is it just me?