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Field Notes
Lily Cai Chinese Dance
Photograph by Brian Lanker
Brian Lanker

What was your best experience in the field covering this story?

We know that dance is important to all human cultures, but it's still a little hard to know exactly why we dance. So the most rewarding part of the assignment was talking with people who have had it play such an important role in their lives. Stella Boes of Austin, Texas, was certainly one of my favorites, and she's been dancing for decades. She talked about how the waltz is love. She hopes that when her last day comes, she will be out on the dance floor with a smile on her face.(See photo.)

I also met former Ziegfeld Follies dancer Doris Eaton Travis (see page 122, July 2006 NGM). Even though she's 102, Doris looks like she's in her 80s. And she still can be found on the dance floor. Sitting down and learning her history was very moving, and in a way she's as beautiful now as she was when she was a Ziegfeld girl.

What was your worst experience in the field covering this story?

I was in Panama City Beach, Florida, for three days for spring break, and the decibel level at the clubs was pretty difficult to deal with for long hours. My assistants and I wore earplugs, but that still wasn't enough. I actually enjoy the beat of hip-hop music, but not when it literally rocks your eardrums.

What was your quirkiest experience in the field covering this story?

People dance with their dogs, and there are actually national and worldwide competitions that are starting to increase in popularity. I photographed Diane Kowalski and her dog, Wes, in Tyrone, Pennsylvania. They won the world championships for canine freestyle dancing, and it was quite startling and fascinating to watch them (see page 114, July 2006 NGM). I thought that they would just prance around a bit, but they actually had moves and routines.