Brow Beat

Oh Snap!: When Dancers Become Superheroes

“It’s the most obvious concept; I can’t believe I didn’t think of it.” That’s the response Jordan Matter usually gets from dance photographers experiencing his Dancers Among Us series for the first time.  Matter’s concept is simple: Great professional dancers are photographed in public spaces, doing what they love most. Captured this way, amid normal life, they appear like otherworldly creatures. As shoppers peruse books and sun worshippers tan, the dancers seem to fly and levitate with the nonchalance of superheroes.

When Matter took the first photos in the series, he sat on them for months, unsure of what to do with them. More than two years later, his concept has grown into something massive. Recently, the New York City-based photographer went on the road.  All it takes is a single tweet for Matter to find a professional dancer in any part of the world who’s eager to leap and bend in public, he says. When he can’t decide where to go next, he opens up the decision to his fans on Facebook. “This is all about social media—the interest that’s been generated, in and out of the dance community,” he says.  

The former actor credits his success in part to the fact that he’s not a dance photographer. “Dance photography has either been beautiful photographs in a studio or beautiful photographs outside, but it’s always been disconnected from reality,” he says. As with any field mired in tradition, it’s easy to get “stuck in a box.”

Matter has a history of nontraditional projects. His last series, Uncovered, was an attempt to figure out why breasts are such a big deal and featured women posing topless in public. Matter found that his subjects were surprisingly euphoric after baring their chests—a sort of adrenaline-filled joy that’s also palpable in his dancing series. After all, there’s something beautiful about doing something you’re not supposed to in public.

Ironically, photographing dancing has gotten him kicked out of more locations, he says, than photographing breasts.