Ballet News Reviews | Ballet by Henry Leutwyler
What a year it’s been for photography books connected to ballet! Darcey Bussell’s lavish photo-biography arrived within reinforced packaging, and then we had the utterly fabulous Dancer’s Among Us from Jordan Matter; an altogether different look at dancers with a spring in their step, and now an almighty tome, Ballet by Henry Leutwyler, which is different again, focusing as it does on one company – New York City Ballet – from all angles.
This is a world experienced first hand by a very few.
Introduced by Peter Martins, NYCB’s Ballet Master in Chief, Martins explains that this is the first time that he has collaborated so extensively with a single photographer, capturing portraits of the 91 dancers of the company as well as key moments in the rep. Leutwyler was given access over 30 days to NYCB’s studios, dressing rooms, the performance within a performance backstage and even their storage spaces.
Access-all-areas has become, if not commonplace, then more accepted under certain circumstances within the closeted ballet world. Even so, never before had Martins allowed a sole photographer to document the company in this way.
If you’re a fan of the ballet company, my goodness you’ll be in heaven for ages with this book! No detail is left out.
A single foot clothed in a pointe shoe atop rumpled stripey leggings.
Two focused eyes and one hand on the barre and the challenges ahead.
Two hands clasping a strip of ribbon.
Carpe Diem tattooed on a forearm.
Ragged tights over a leotard.
A foot stretching to the ceiling.
A dancer faces the mirror.
A row of sparkling chiffon dresses lined up on metal, labelled hangers.
Nerves before curtain up; feeling the stage.
Four bandaged toes.
A row of sewing needles threaded with string, fixed to a brick wall at stage level.
Floating, dancer-less tutus. In fact, miles and miles of tutus of every description.
A dancer in costume texting between Acts, feet up on the bench, delicately crossed at the ankles.
The photographs have a reportage style, in black and white as well as colour, and come without introduction. There are lots of dancers clustered around rosin trays and all manner of pointe shoe sewing and preparation. Packing crates feature regularly, which might surprise you, but they are all labelled for different productions and close-up detail reveals how well used they are – inside one of them reveals a case filled with Nutcracker dolls with long white hair.
Everything that is ballet, is here.
Ballet by Henry Leutwyler is available to buy now :