Let’s dance: promotional photography for salsa charity

Let’s dance: promotional photography for salsa charity

To be commissioned for a project by people you know in another area of your life is always a pleasure. Getting to photograph a subject such as dance, which I have a personal passion for, is a special delight. Having the opportunity to produce work for a worthwhile cause is extremely rewarding. Combine all three and you have one of my favourite projects from this year and one that was a joy to work on from start to finish.

The Lee Wright Synergy Dance World Memorial Trust is a charity that was set up in memory of Lee Wright, a twenty-four year old dance champion who was killed in a car accident in 2008. Lee performed, taught and competed internationally. I remember Lee well – he had such an outgoing and warm personality that he garnered a reputation for being one of the friendliest (as well as one of the most accomplished) dancers in the UK salsa scene.

After his untimely death, some of his close friends and family founded a charity that offers free dance courses and workshops to people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to learning salsa, to help them explore the myriad physical, social and mental benefits of dance.

The charity asked me to take some photos of their course at a school in north London. The photography was intended to demonstrate and promote their work. I attended one of the final rehearsals of a group choreography featuring around 15 girls and photographed their enthusiastic run throughs of the routine. I photographed them practising in casual rehearsal clothes and then their first dress rehearsal.

Performance photography hinges on capturing energy and the group certainly had lots of that! Most of the session involved me taking a fly on the wall approach, photographing the group from different parts of the room without interrupting the flow of activity.

However, I knew the charity wanted not only documentary style images of the course in progress, but also something more abstract and unusual, which might be used across other initiatives. So, at the end of the session, I asked the girls to improvise in front of a window, which had sunlight streaming through. I caught their silhouettes as they moved in random directions, criss-crossing past each other, stopping and starting, posing for the camera and forgetting and dancing wildly for themselves.

I particularly liked this shot because it clearly shows the scuff marks on the floor from the dancers’ feet – a pattern of curves and lines that reflects the effort, creativity and persistence true of all dancers honing their skills. A yoga teacher friend of mine once said it was important for her to practise on her own mat because it had all her blood, sweat and tears (the latter two quite literally) from her intensive, daily practise absorbed into it. I like to think that a dance studio floor, like the one in this image, gives its visitors something of the same…a reminder of their intention, sacrifice and dreams along with the echoes of those of many dancers before them.

The echo of Lee’s memory is strong amongst those who knew him and this charity will no doubt bring some of that legacy to many more who never met the man, but will continue to benefit from his love of dance.

Details of the charity’s mission and projects can be found at: www.leeforever.org.uk

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