Saturday, August 29, 2015


This week, I had the pleasure of photographing the new dance play PEARL at Lincoln Center for Time Out New York. This was special to me not only because I was one of three photographers there or because it was the world premiere of the show, but because for the first time, my dance photography work had collided with the work of one of my dear friends who is a dancer.

Raymond Ejiofor was cast in PEARL in one of its earlier choreography stages and had the opportunity to be a part of its development process along with only a few other dancers. The full cast at Lincoln Center would be responsible for telling the story of the life of Pearl S. Buck, the Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winning author of The Good Earth, among other novels. One of the shows goals is "highlighting the closing of the cultural divide….'East meets West' and features a very talented cast of 30 Chinese and American dancers, Raymond being of the latter.

I met Ray in college, where I discovered what a pleasure it was to watch him dance, finding myself perpetually in utter awe of his skill and grace. All of our friends have always been pulling for him, knowing how talented he is and hoping the rest of the world could one day see it, despite the harsh difficulties of making a life as a dancer. And now, after earning his Master's degree in Public Health, Ray is a full-time dancer, and has been employed by various companies and freelance projects in Los Angeles and other places around the world (he is going to Shanghai in September for work, as well). For example, he appears in Pharrell's music video for "Happy," Fitz and the Tantrums' music video for "The Walker," and many others, especially, most recently, as the star of Little Boots's music video "No Pressure" (video below).

Now, though, I would get to see him in PEARL, which he had been working on for the last few months. It is, he would tell me, his debut show in New York. As I sat in the theatre holding my camera during dress rehearsal, snapping away at the various, very beautiful scenes in PEARL, I was so happy Ray and I had both gotten to a literal and metaphorical place in our lives where this interaction was possible. It's always been a dream of mine to be able to shout from the rooftops how wonderful my friends are and how beautiful the work they create is, and I'm honored and exploding with delight to have been able to do that in any way for Ray, who so very much deserves it, in such a good show.

A screenshot of my PEARL slideshow on Time Out New York!
You can view the rest of the images on the site here.

Choreographed and directed by Daniel Ezralow, a talented veteran of the dance world (credits include the film Across the Universe and the Broadway show of Spider-Man, among many others), PEARL is an abstract telling of Pearl S. Buck's life. The show is told in five portions, Spring, Flower, River, Moon, Night, each representing a time in Buck's life. The narrative is clean and clear but not prosaic or overbearing--in other words, I got it, but they didn't beat me over the head with it, which I appreciated--and it's so interesting to see a story told in a different way. As I said to Ray, I photograph dance all the time, and it's nice to see something new, a story told in contemporary dance. PEARL is holding only four performances at Lincoln Center, and is in talks to travel to China in 2016. Between now and then, this may be your only chance to catch the show, and I highly recommend that you do (link here for tickets).

And after the show, if you don't mind, go up to Ray and give him a big hug for me. A head's up, he might be a little sweaty.

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