Our second morning in Elkins, West Virginia, rain was tapping a beat on the pavement, and our hoped-for exterior location was unusable. We ended up on semi-circular outcrop of the large porch at Halliehurst Mansion for to shoot the Appalachian Ensemble of Will Roboski. Will is, according to his peers, a "true ambassador of dance." Although he heard only recently about our film, he quickly reached out to other dancers, administrators, media and musicians to involve community-wide participation.
In a way, that is natural for Elkins. The community of Davis & Elkins College, nestled in the foothills of the mountain state, preserves and celebrates the traditional culture of Appalachia.
That morning, eight dancers in tap shoes performed the percussive dance (clogging) moving into the various shapes and figures traditional to Appalachia. Our crew worked to capture the footwork and partnering, but also, the shapes they were creating, with some innovative camera angles.
Despite the rain pelting a few feet away, the dancers created a brilliant picture, weaving in and out of the formations as their feet tapped out a steady beat. As they were finishing, the rain diminished, and our crew took advantage of the lull to fly a drone to get some of the beautiful vistas of the campus and surrounding landscape.
That evening, many of the dancers we had filmed returned for an impromptu square dance on the campus. Dancers and musicians gathered--a fairly common practice in Elkins--and as the musicians played, townspeople danced to the instructions of the square dance caller, young and old creating various circles, squares and lines as they danced.
Thanks to Will's active outreach, local radio, television and print media covered our film shoot, and shared the story of "Dancing Joy." West Virginia--as we have experienced on several previous productions--is a prime film location, combining rich visual landscapes with talented and welcoming people. With the help of film consultant Jamie Cope, the expertise of fellow filmmaker Eric "Doc" Benson, the logistical support of Barb McQuain, the training of Kenny Chaplin of the Film Industry Training Seminars, and talented young production assistants like Emily James, our film owes a huge debt to West Virginia's film community.