Dance Study: Tiana Murray


Dancer: Tiana Murray

“Dance without vulnerability is lifeless. Vulnerability gives dance a rawness, a realness, that changes people and invites them into worship; otherwise dance is just well executed steps with no soul, heart, or spirit.”
— Tiana Murray

It’s amazing the friendships and opportunities that can come from allowing your schedule to be interrupted. One day last year I had scheduled some time to just chill with my friend Mohan after church service so that we could converse about a few different things, from one creative to another. It was on our way to eat though that we bump into a dancer from the church, Tiana Murray (at this point, friend of Mohan) and was introduced to her. In classic Mohan style he invited her to come with us to eat (in which she said yes), and it was now the three of us off in search of food. After settling on Panera Bread, what occurred was at least an hour of conversation about our individual ideas; what we wanna do with our talents, our struggles and short comings as artists, encouraging one another, how our talents could be used to help out each other, and goals that we would like to accomplish. All this will in the presence of good food mind you, food is a catalyst for great conversation. After conversing I asked Tiana if she’d be interested in doing some dance photography (before I called it the Dance Study) and she happily said yes. Moral of this story kids: Sometimes schedule interruptions can point us into the direction of other opportunities to be seized and to be had.

Now, it’s actually a good thing that some time had passed between the day of conversation and the day we did our first Dance Study. Why you ask? Because during that time, me doing dance photography was mostly something I just wanted to try out and just to say that I did, probably for the sake of just saying I did. Now that I’ve taken a greater investment in the project, the images that I got from this session would have been better than the images I might have gotten during that timeframe.

One of things I thought I’d try with Tiana was to have her being a Bible with her to the session and somehow incorporate her love for dance, her knowledge of pointe ballet, and her passion of the Word. Up until this point I don’t know if any other photographer has done this, but I thought it’d be interesting to give it a try, regardless if it has been done or not. A couple of days before the session, I asked Tiana if we could use a playground as a setting, she was up for it. After shooting the set at the playground, I’m very glad that I did, especially the shot of her doing a Grand Jete in front of one of the play sets reading her Bible. Now I realize that no one may actually do this during a Bible Study but I felt that this could be a great visualization of what a study would look like in the mind of a dancer or a dancer’s outward expression of his/her love for God and the words they read that He writes to them.

Now, see some of what I shot during our session below, including some images outside of the playground using some trucks as her stage underneath the Manhattan Bridge. Thank you again Tiana and can’t wait to create more images with you.

[JRP ’13]