Each year in August the Chicago dance community comes together to provide a night of support for its own through the Dance for Life benefit performance, organized by Chicago Dancers United. Money raised from this event goes directly into the Dancer’s Fund, which supports local dance community professionals affected by critical health issues.
Each year new artwork is commissioned, and this year it features the work of two talented artists, not just one. 4dancers asked executive director Phil Reynolds about how the artists were selected for the imagery this year. Here was his response:
“Dance for Life conducts an annual photo shoot with Chicago dancers to develop imagery for our marketing and promotional material. Knowing of Todd Rosenberg’s extraordinary work with many Chicago-based dance companies, I reached out to him asking if he would consider working with us on Dance for Life Chicago 2017. He very generously agreed. The result, “The Red Shoot,” as we refer to it, was spectacular. A year later, I contacted Todd about working with Dance for Life in 2018. He said, “yes,” and suggested a collaborative concept he had in mind with painter Alice Klock. His photographs would be painted upon by Alice. Again, the resulting images are magical.”
We thought it would be interesting to explore the collaboration between these two artists a bit more, so we sent them each a few questions about the process of creating these images for the event. What follows is our Q&A with each, starting with Todd.
What made you think of doing this collaboration with Alice, and how did you manage the actual workflow of collaborating with one another?
I have always loved and appreciated Alice’s work, so when it came time to do something for this year’s Dance for Life campaign, I approached Alice and she was completely on board. Initially we tested out some images for the DFL committee to see and once the concept was approved, we got the ball rolling. At the time of the actual shoot, Alice was not feeling well, so she couldn’t be at the actual DFL shoot. But we had already discussed specifics as far as what could or would work well movement-wise for her.
Can you describe how the photo shoot process worked for this—things such as where it took place, how many dancers there were, and how you directed the shoot?
Basically there 8 dancers from four companies in the city, including Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (my “home” company and where I had met Alice), Joffrey, Giordano and Visceral. With this process, I talked with the companies and worked with them finding dancers who would volunteer their time. In some cases, these were dancers I had worked with in studio or enjoy photographing during performance. It is always nice to have a familiar dancer. Joffrey was generous enough to donate space for us so we did the shoot at their studios. The work was done on a white seamless with the dancers wearing “nude” clothing to easily allow for Alice to create their costumes and the art around the bodies. We had both hair and makeup artists: Sara Jean Stevens for hair and Kasha Rodig for makeup.
As far as direction, a lot of it was free improv where the dancers provided the input. As we shot, the images were coming up on a screen and we could see what could or would work. Having different dancers with different dance disciplines, it provided us a wide variety of options. I was able to text images to Alice along the way and she was providing input.
Once the images were taken, they were provided to Dance for Life for selections, preferences to be made. Those images were then worked on by my former assistant Sophie Paolino, who blended the clothing into the dancers for Alice to paint. I printed the images onto the same water color paper Alice normally paints on, which gave her the texture she needed for her portion. I was able to print a few copies of each selected image to allow for creativity without fear of having only one copy.
What was the best part about working with Alice on this, and was it easier or more difficult than doing a shoot for Dance for Life on your own?
The best part is that I got to enjoy her mind as she created around my photos. My main goal was to make sure that she had a good canvas to work so we could create awesome works of art. There is nothing difficult about working with Alice, she is the furthest thing from high maintenance. I loved the process to create these, and I really love the final products. And she and I already talked collaborating again.
Next we asked for some perspective from Alice’s point of view:
How was this type of artwork similar or different from what you have been doing with your painting?
Movement has always been a very important element in my visual art. To create this work with Todd has been a pleasure for this reason and was very much in keeping with the energy of my usual work. It differed in that here I have been working with subjects that are outside of my own design. Complimenting the dancers has been the goal throughout and within that has been a fun challenge of creating movement with the paint that does not take away or distract from the beauty of the photographs.
A selection of prints that Todd and Alice collaborated on will be available for purchase at Dance for Life Chicago on Saturday, August 18th at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University.
The mission of Dance for Life is to support organizations and dance professionals facing critical health issues. The money raised through the annual benefit performance goes directly to the Dancer’s Fund. Learn more about the fund here, and get tickets for the 2018 show here.
Todd Rosenberg has been recognized among the top tier entertainment and sports photographers in the city of Chicago. A native of Chicago, his impressive client list contains some of the the most distinguished entertainment venues in the city including a 20 year relationship with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Lyric Opera, Hubbard Street Dance, and Second City. In addition, his work is seen nationally through advertising as well as with the NFL and on the pages of Sports Illustrated; the publisher of 24 years of Rosenberg’s sports images, including more than 15 cover photos. www.toddrphoto.com