Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dancers Among Us Stranded on Aspen Mountain

I flew to Aspen to photograph the prestigious Aspen Santa Fe Ballet for Dancers Among Us. Eleven of their company members had volunteered to work with me. I had just over one day to take advantage of this amazing opportunity. Needless to say, the schedule was very tight.

I arrived the evening before without a plan, relying on serendipity to guide me. Fortunately, ASFB had generously put me up at the Hotel Joseph, one of the most famous hotels in Aspen. The next morning I discovered why- I awoke to a spectacular view of Aspen Mountain. I had my first location!

“That will be one-hundred-and-five dollars, please.”

I was buying three tickets to the top of the mountain. ASFB principles Katie Dehler and Samantha Campanile were along for the adventure. We had two hours in the schedule, and the ride on the gondola was thirty minutes in each direction. I had an hour to take a $105 photograph.

As we arrived at the top of the mountain, I thought, “Now what?” It was windy, freezing and barren. We didn’t bring any ski equipment (surprisingly the ballerinas didn’t want to risk their careers by skiing for my photo). What scenario could I possibly create?

Once again, serendipity stepped in.

“Would you like your photo taken?” A mountaintop photographer was offering his services.

“No, but I’d like to photograph you photographing these dancers.” We struck a deal. Now it had to be a $125 photo.

We stepped into the lodge to warm up. I asked Katie and Samantha to put on pointe shoes. To the delight of everyone, they practiced some poses.

We went outside into the freezing wind. They were not happy.

But they soldiered on.

I liked it, but I wasn’t thrilled. I wanted them to be more in sync, like a duet. An element of danger would also be exciting- we were on the top of a mountain, after all. I abandoned my photographer idea (and my $20), climbed down a steep decline and asked them to look over the edge and brave the freezing wind yet again.

Twenty excruciating minutes later, I had my $125 shot. I also had two frozen ballerinas. We rushed towards the gondola, just in time to meet the next crop of dancers.

“Sorry, the gondola is closed. The winds are too strong. You’ll have to wait. I don’t know how long.”

What a bummer! Everyone was waiting down at the base, and I was stranded on the top of the mountain with two ballerinas.

Wait a minute, that doesn’t really sound so awful. We made the best of it- we drank hot chocolate and snuggled by the fire (I may be exaggerating just a little).

Katie even agreed to pose for one more photo.

Finally we made it down to the base, met up with the rest of the dancers and had a magical evening of shooting. But nothing compares to ballerinas on a mountaintop.