Mind your lines. Find your light. Trust your instincts. These are just a few of the similarities binding dancers and photographers. These visually stimulating crafts collide in our ROOT x Paul Jung collaboration, which features professional dancers Jacquelin Harris and Samuel Lee Roberts.
We sat down with the two accomplished performers to talk dance, pop-culture, and what it was like working with Paul Jung.
What do you think are 3 qualities every dancer should have?
Samuel – “Tenacity, discipline, and generosity.”
Jacquelin – “I would say you have to be determined. You have to really persevere because it’s hard. And I think you have to be very open, because opportunities could come that you don’t think you’re ready for, or that you didn’t plan for, but you really just have to go with it.”
The both of you have performed all over the world. Is there a venue or an event where you’ve performed that really stands out in your mind as a highlight?
Samuel – “I really enjoy our Atlanta audiences. We are at the Fox Theater every year, generally around Valentine’s Day. They’re just really great, It’s funny, because it takes us a really long time to get ready but we end up holding the show a half hour because Atlanta folk usually show up very….leisurely. But they are always so great. Outside of the United States I really love Tel Aviv. I don’t know if it’s the actual performance as much as just actually being there. It’s just really beautiful.”
Jacquelin – “My favorite place to perform is in Denmark. It has a lot to do with the atmosphere of the country. Everyone is happy, everyone is kind, the weather is always nice – or at least it is whenever we perform there! The theater where we perform is in the middle of an amusement park so you can hear people laughing and having fun outside, but the audience is also so receptive and they love what we do.”
Have you two ever done a print ad like this before? How did this experience compare to shoots you’ve done in the past?
Samuel – “I loved the atmosphere that Paul created on set. It was so calm and peaceful. He was so trusting of Jacquelin and I. It was really great because when I’ve done something like this in the past, it was always so micromanaged but Paul really trusted that Jacquelin and I knew our bodies and knew what we were doing. He gave us minimal direction. He just let us go and I think it was great because he got to be his best self and we were able to be our best selves. It was a pretty beautiful match between his talent and our talent.”
Jacquelin – “It’s just very different from anything I’ve ever done. I loved his vision. I loved what he did with the shapes and the shadows. I also feel like I’ve never worked so closely with a photographer before. Usually when I do photo shoots it’s more about the dance aspect of it and less about the photographer’s vision so I really enjoyed working on this.”
Paul mentioned that shooting athletes is different from shooting dancers because athletes will stop at a certain point whereas dancers will keep going. How do you feel about that?
Samuel – “There is that determination, that tenacity that we mentioned. I also think that athletes in our country are so much more revered and they make such a larger paycheck that we as dancers come from a place that is 99% passion and 1% the other stuff that comes with this profession.”
Building on that, do you feel that the perception of dancers in pop-culture has changed, especially the rise of so many talent-oriented reality TV shows?
Samuel – “I think over the course of my career things have definitely changed. I remember the era before “So You Think You Can Dance” and I used to always think to myself, why can’t we be valued as dancers? I always had dancers who I looked to as role models, but the world at large wasn’t exposed to them. And then “So You Think You Can Dance” came along and although it isn’t exactly the type of dance that we do, I really respected the fact that it brought dance into the homes of everyone in America. I think it served a purpose because I think dance as a whole has been lifted to a new level.”
Jacquelin – “I think [the show] made dance more accessible to everyone which is really important because it’s art and art should be for everyone. You shouldn’t have to pay $100 to go sit and watch ballet – I mean that’s always good too and we appreciate those people! But it should be accessible to everyone.”