Blog #233  11/28/17

Deanna Doyle, a wonderfully accomplished dancer at a casting.

When planning to make a photograph, a careful, thoughtful casting for that perfect person is essential. A photograph is only as good as its weakest element.

This is a blog about a particular casting and the factors that were involved.

We accepted an assignment to do an advertising shoot for print and TV. A dancer was required. It’s key never to cast just one model/dancer for any commercial assignment—you never know what might happen, and the “one” may not be the one after all. So we needed to find two dancers who were each perfect for the work. No small task, but crucial.

There are many casting directors in New York City who do good work, and I’ve sometimes hired them for shoots that required hundreds of subjects be seen. Still, I prefer to do my own casting. I know what I’m looking for and I need to know if the model or dancer is cooperative and can take my direction. If someone else does the casting, I only have photographs to look at.

Therefore, casting for an important shoot, which can take a day or more, I hire an agency to whittle down the applicants to the top 15-20 individuals; Then I do a second casting myself, in my studio.

With dancers, I ask a number of questions, such as “When did you start dancing lessons?“ When the answer is “four or five years old,” and “dancing has continued uninterrupted,“ I know we’re on the right track. There may be terrific dancers who didn’t start dancing until they were 15 or so, but there are not many, and late starters rarely dance as well as those who began early in life.

I then ask, “What do you do for a living?” in order to determine if dancing is a hobby or a full-time passion and profession. It’s rare for a part-time dancer to out-perform a professional.

I ask some other rather benign questions just to see if the person is upbeat, enthusiastic, and ready for a long hard day of real effort. Professional dancers are usually harder working than just about anyone.

The 12 young women whose photographs grace this blog include some of the top group of dancers that came from the casting house. Each was a magnificent dancer and person. It was so much fun seeing what they could do/perform from my directions. And, it’s so easy to see from these images why I fall in love with dancers.

Note: These are casting (not fine, finished nor highly unique) photographs made only to determine whether a dancer could do what we needed for the formal shoot. There is no careful make up, no special styling or lighting. They are nice to look at, but not special as dance photographs. They were made only to find two wonderful dancers right for the shoot. And, the image I was commissioned to create had to do with flying; thus I asked each dancer to demonstrate “flying” before I looked for other dance talent and capability.

The first step was to create a space where each dancer could feel free to move (”fly”), one that was well-lit so I could readily make photographs.

Shilpa, our intern from India, stands in the 25 foot wide space. She holds a grey card so we can program our camera settings to produce color-accurate photographs. This is done at the start of every shoot.

A cushioned “dance” floor has been placed to soften landings. I wanted a white background so that each dancer would stand out and be readily seen: strobe packs off to the side feed light heads that are directed to the cyclorama in back and that are shielded from the camera’s lens with black “V” flats, gobos. Another large light is placed centrally above my camera in order to fully light the dancers.

Each dancer filled out a casting sheet with essential information. I did a little interview and made notes on the sheet as well. I gave each dancer exact directions for what I wanted her to perform and then also asked her to “surprise” me with something special.

Look at these beautiful, hopeful and determined faces holding up their casting sheets. Think about it: they came to the studio not having prepared; they were minimally warmed up and stretched, and then gave everything they had.

I wish we could have hired every one of them.

Paulette Lewis

Emily Dann

Natalia Alonso

Andrea Spiridonakos

Julie Nelson

Emery Lecrone

I have worked a great deal with Emery who is both a beautiful dancer and a talented choreographer. Below is an advertising image I made of her, as many colored paint drips, for Epson.

Drew Jacoby, one of the best dancers I’ve ever seen. She was one of my top
choices but the advertising client (who pays the bills) chose two others.

Marina Lazzaretto

Megan LeCrone, sister of Emery. Megan is a star ballerina with the New York City Ballet.

Working with me in our pool a few years earlier, we made this image.

Underwater Study #2778, Megan LeCrone with Umbrella

Ariel Shepley

Haylee Nichele

Which two do suppose got the part?

This was one of the images (a dancer, “flying”) used by the advertising