The Importance of the Photo Credit

Good observers may have noticed that I am making an effort to give credit to the photographers who take the pictures on this site. Let me tell you why I think this is important.

To start with, I should describe the role that photographers play in the dance world. Us dancers are often caught up in the moment of the dance, focused on connecting with our partners, the music, and the spirit of the night. In addition, we empty our pockets during dances, so as to not have stuff get in the way of our movements. We don’t have phones easily at hand. We are not well suited for capturing the moment in any sort of permanent way. Enter the photographer. Their job is to create permanent reminders of temporary feelings.

Organizers of dances will often hire photographers to be a part of the dance. The photographer spends the night weaving around the dance floor, snapping pictures here and there. Good photographers will connect with the mood of the evening and find ways to take pictures that show that off that mood. Good photographers will have an understanding of the ebb and flow of the music, whether from a live band or a DJ. They will know when breaks in the dance are coming up, as well as when the peaks are at hand. Good photographers will know what it means to dance.

I would argue that as a photographer moves around the dance floor, they are dancing in their own way. If I catch a photographer out of the corner of my eye, I will often try to involve them in my dance. Sometimes that means flashing a cheesy pose. Sometimes that means trying 100% to be in the moment for them. But it always means that I acknowledge them.

As dancers, we are always discussing our connection. “Good connection, bad connection, weak connection, strong connection,” and on and on. I like connecting with photographers on the dance floor. My only rule is that I am dancing for the photographer, not the camera.

If you take this idea further, we must also ask ourselves whether or not the person who attends a dance but never leaves their chair is not also dancing? Does tapping a toe along to the beat count? Something to think about at least.

I am making an effort to give Photo Credits to all the photographers whose pictures show up on Dancers Say What. It is important to acknowledge everybody who is a part of a dance evening, however they choose to dance. The next post will be from the point of view of the musicians.

As a reminder, send me your favorite Survivor Pic from 2018 and I’ll highlight them in a post in December. Of course, make sure to tell me who took the photo, gotta give credit where credit is due.

Photo Essay Call: The Survivor Pic

There is a thing in the social dancing world called the “survivor pic.” It is the picture that is taken at the very end of a night of dancing to capture the people who made it through until the very end.

As I was write this, it comes to me that calling it a survivor pic makes it sound as if the remaining dancers braved some terrible ordeal, or journeyed on an epic odyssey. Really though, they usually had just experienced a delightful evening of dancing and merriment. Funny.

Regardless, survivor pics are some of my favorite photos from any event that I attend. They have a feeling of camaraderie to them, or perhaps a touch of satisfaction. Most often though a definite look of exhaustion. It is not uncommon to have daylight peeking through in the background.

As the year 2018 winds down, I thought it a good idea to make a call for submissions for everyone’s favorite survivor pictures from the year. Please send me your favorite picture, along with the event name, date, and a sentence or two describing what made the night special for you. Oh, and also who took the picture for the photo credit.

I’ll compile all of the submissions and post them as a remembrance for 2018. Send your submissions to editor@dancerssaywhat.com by Monday, November 26th.

For me, my favorite survivor pic is from the Saturday night dance at this year’s Willow Blues in Łódż, Poland – April 21, 2018. For some reason, we are almost all in black and somebody suggested at the last minute that we should pretend we are sleeping. I swear we had a great time! Notice the smiles peaking out of the corners of everyone’s mouths…

Photo: Michał Markowicz

 

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Photo: Chiara Scarfato Fotografie

A Crushing Wall of Phones, or Why Dancers Say What Exists

I had the most interesting experience on the streets of Valencia. It had to do with a piano, a handful of dancers, and a bunch of tourists.

The story starts with me traveling around Europe with the purpose of finding a community of dancers with whom I could start a new life. There is an intimacy that comes with social dancing. It very quickly allows you to get a glimpse into the deeper layers of a person, a community, and a country. It is a very useful tool for understanding a potential place to call home.

One dance weekend took me to Valencia, Spain. The weekend itself was filled with much revelry, meeting of new people, and of course dancing. The organizers of the festival had arranged for the festivities to take place in several venues and open spaces around the city. Throughout the day, us dancers would make our way along the stone streets from dance to dance. At one point our group was making our way through the very heart of the old town and we came upon a street musician, merrily banging out skillful tunes on a piano. Sensing the moment, we dropped our bags, partnered up, and started dancing to the music. If this all sounds a tad romantic, gentle reader, then I can assure you that there is indeed a rush of joy that comes with grasping a moment fully. Sharing that moment with a dance partner and a musician transforms this joy into something bordering on bliss, perhaps even holy.

However, it was the response from the surrounding crowds of tourists that had the most profound impact on me. They all took out their mobile phones and began filming us. We were caged in, pinned together by a wall of electronic eyes, videos of our little dance instantly flying to every corner of the world. Our shared moment of intimacy had been become a spectacle.

I remember in that moment feeling anger towards the crowd of tourists. I remember wanting to shout at them to put their phones away. They didn’t. We finished our dance, thanked the musician, and continued to our destination.

It was only later on that I realized what it was that had frustrated me so much about the experience. It was that each tourist had a choice to join us in our dance, and yet they chose instead to consume us from afar. It saddened me to think that if they had put their phones down and taken one of our hands, they too could have felt that joy, bliss, and holiness. I wanted to share it with them.

It is with this thought in mind that Dancers Say What comes into being. I want this collection of stories to be both a window into the social dancing world, and an invitation to join us in our dance. I want it to be a place where we can pass along the stories that come with being a member of the social dancing world, and I hope to cover the full spectrum of the human experience this world offers.

My exploratory journey around Europe eventually found myself landing in Poland. Therefore, most of the stories at the beginning of this project will come from the people and places that I know in this region of Europe. I hope, however, that it will grow to include voices from all over the world. If you think you have a story to tell that will help enrich the social dancing world, please do get in touch with me. If you think you have something that should be passed along to present and future dancers, please do share. If I can leave this world a little more enchanted than when I found it, I will be a very pleased man.

So what is coming up? I have prepared several interviews with dance organizers and musicians from around Poland. These will be rolling out over the coming weeks. We also have several guest writers lined up to contribute their own opinions and stories. But the main flurry of activity on my end will be expanding my traveling to collect more interviews and essays. Want to contribute? Get in touch!