Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dancers Among Us Under Attack in Paradise

“Sure, Sarasota has America’s number one beach, but there’s so much more to do.”

For the past few months, I heard this commercial every twenty minutes while listening to my Elton John channel on Pandora. I guess Elton puts me in the Florida demographic.

America’s number one beach? That’s a pretty bold statement, and just too tempting to resist. Dancers Among Us could use a pretty beach location, and I could use a break from the northern winter.

On Sunday afternoon I arrived in Sarasota with my makeup artist and collaborator, Pamela Bob. I had booked a day of actor headshots with Florida State University/Asolo Rep students the next day, so I only had a few hours of light for Dancers Among Us.

I wanted to use members of Sarasota Ballet for the shoot, so for weeks I put on a full-court press to woo them- tweeting, facebooking, emailing, calling. The company’s Director, Iain Webb, finally responded to my stalking, but I was still unsure of my prospects as I arrived at the theatre.

Luckily for me, Iain was very enthusiastic and passionate. He greeted me with a warm smile and four beautiful dancers: Principles Danielle Brown, Octavio Martin and Ricardo Graziano, and Soloist Ricardo Rhodes. They were in the midst of a hellacious rehearsal schedule, but took a few precious hours off to collaborate with me.

As rain threatened, we piled into our cars and sped south towards the famous Siesta Beach. I immediately saw the appeal. The white sand feels like talcum powder, and the ocean is turquoise blue.

And there are seagulls. Lots of them.

Feeding the seagulls was an obvious scenario. My initial thought was a jump to mimic the flying motion of the birds, but Danielle suggested a lift instead. Much better idea! We practiced for a few minutes, keeping one eye on the impending storm.

The approaching rain was a blessing in disguise. It provided me with beautiful light and a dramatic background. Had it been sunny, the bright white sand would have washed out the seagulls.

There was no time to waste, so we got a few rolls from concessions and jumped right in. We threw up a couple of crumbs and the birds went nuts. They descended on her and IT WAS CREEPY! Before Danielle could even fully extend her body, the seagulls attacked the bread and left her empty handed. At least they left her fingers intact.

We had four rolls, and I just kept shooting until we ran out of bread. Unable to control the situation in any way, I adopted a rapid-fire approach: shouting adjustments to the dancers while hoping the ravenous birds would not obstruct them. Or eat them.

I got several cool photos, but the final frame is my favorite. A seagull swooped in and ate out of Danielle’s hand just long enough for me to get the shot, then flew away with the last of our bread.

Pamela Bob recorded the entire experience, and it’s worth spending two minutes to see what this looked like in action. It’s truly surreal. Check the video below: