Famous photographer releases ‘Ballet’ book

Portrait of photographer Henry Leutwyler. Photograph by Sharon Suh.Ballet, Photographs of the New York City Ballet, is a book by Henry Leutwyler that is the culmination of four years of collaboration between the internationally-renowned portrait photographer and the New York City Ballet.


After several years of collaborating with the company on its acclaimed advertising and promotional campaigns, which included studio portraits of all NYCB’s dancers, Leutwyler was next granted unprecedented backstage access to NYCB’s theater and rehearsal studios at Lincoln Center.


The result is an extraordinary 488-page, hardcover book, featuring 270 photographs, that has been published by Steidl, one of the world’s most distinguished printers and publishers of fine art and photography books. In conjunction with the recent release of Ballet, New York City’s Foley Gallery, located at 97 Allen Street, is also showing an exhibition of selected photographs from Leutwyler’s book, which is on display now through January 6, 2013.


Divided into five sections, Ballet gives viewers a rare look at the inner workings of one of the world’s greatest dance organizations. For the behind-the-scenes images, Leutwyler spent more than 30 days during NYCB’s 2012 winter and spring seasons, photographing throughout the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, the home of the New York City Ballet.


Beginning with daily company class led by NYCB Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins, the book progresses to images taken in rehearsal studios and dressing rooms, culminating with a unique series of photographs taken from various backstage vantage points while the 80 plus dancers of the company perform more than 20 works by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Peter Martins, Alexei Ratmansky and Christopher Wheeldon.


The final section of the book features nearly 60 of Leutwyler’s original portraits of NYCB’s dancers, some of which are being published for the first time ever, including images of all the company’s Principal Dancers.


“During his time with the company, Henry was able to become invisible in a way, which enabled him to experience our world like an insider, capturing both the hard and often gritty day-to- day work, as well as the exquisite performances that our dancers present every night, all photographed from a perspective that few audience members ever get to see,” said NYCB’s Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins.


Leutwyler commented: “It was an extraordinary experience to inhabit this special world, and with these images I wanted to showcase the daily rituals and intense dedication of these artists who devote their lives to the unbelievable beauty that they create at every performance.”


Born in Switzerland in 1961, Leutwyler lived and worked in Paris for a decade before moving to New York City in 1995, where he established his reputation as a portrait photographer. Steidl also published Leutwyler’s first book, Neverland Lost: A Portrait of Michael Jackson, in 2010. The images from Neverland Lost have since been exhibited in solo shows in Los Angeles, New York, and Moscow.


While Ballet does document the dancers of the New York City Ballet during the 2012 New York season, it also provides a timeless glimpse of the art form itself.


“Working with film and the 35mm Leica that I have used for many years, I wanted to create a visual narrative through the images alone, and have included almost no text with the finished product,” Leutwyler said. “For those viewers who know the New York City Ballet and its repertory, they will recognize favorite dancers and ballets among the images. For those less familiar with the company, I hope that Ballet draws them in to this rarely-seen world in much the same way that it was slowly revealed to me during the time I have spent with the company.”


New York City Ballet is one of the foremost dance companies in the world, with a roster of more than 80 dancers and an unparalleled repertory of modern masterpieces. The company was founded in 1948 by the legendary choreographer George Balanchine and arts patron Lincoln Kirstein, and quickly became world-renowned for its athletic, contemporary style, and a repertory of original ballets that has forever changed the face of classical dance. Now under the direction of Peter Martins, NYCB continues its commitment to promoting creative excellence and nurturing a new generation of dancers and choreographers.


Ballet is available for purchase online at nycballet.com. For more information on NYCB performances visit their website or call 212-496-0600.


Ballet the exhibition is currently on view at the Foley Gallery, located at 97 Allen Street in New York City, though Jan. 6, 2013. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 6 p.m., or by appointment. For more information on the exhibition visit foleygallery.com.


Photo: Portrait of photographer Henry Leutwyler. Photograph by Sharon Suh.

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