These are the last days to see the group exhibition of photographs at Keith de Lellis Gallery that explores the history of dance in the 20th century, with works spanning from the 1920s to the 1960s. The poses, expressions, and moments formed in these photographs were also conceptualized through a phrase of dance, a surrealist notion that holds visually throughout these works. Together and separately, both dance and photography are ever-changing.
Curated from a collection of dance photography acquired over the past 25 years, the exhibition’s photographs include some of the dance world’s most influential personas and styles of this era. Among them include photographs from the collections of impresario Lincoln Kirstein, co-founder and former director of the eminent New York City Ballet; as well as the New York Times’ first dance critic, John Martin. Kirstein’s colleague and standalone legendary Russian choreographer George Balanchine is featured prominently in the works. British photographer Cecil Beaton creates a vivid portrait of the choreographer staring steadily into the lens, tall flowers emerging from the right side of the frame, and the left side shapes a delicate cloud of smoke that rises above his head from the cigarette in hand.
The selection of intimate and lively pieces joins two unique worlds of art, which simultaneously face the concept of movement during the rapidly modernizing period. American photographer George Platt Lynes’ images of dancers point to Surrealism, and gracefully reveal the beauty of capturing dance in a photo. He alludes to Balanchine’s ballet Orpheus in an emotive portrait of two nude male dancers bending their bodies into one another that creates an outline of highlights in the center of a dark frame, the man in front carrying a shining lyre. Platt Lynes’ dance images evoke the abstract nature of Surrealist photography.
While the early to mid-1900s brought a wave of experimentalism to the photography world, dance was in its prime, with dancers making up a significant portion of pop culture. The exhibition is studded with iconic performers such as Fred Astaire, Josephine Baker, and Marilyn Monroe. Polish photographer Lucien Walery captures an archetypal image of Baker on stage in Paris while performing her signature ‘Charleston’ dance, with a towering city painted on the wall behind her.
The photographs in Focus on Dance bring forward the elegance and energy that fueled an intricate world of dance in the early to mid-20th century. To see images from the time where dance and photography began to intersect builds a sense of community among artists that is tangible in these photos.
Focus on Dance
Until August 17th 2023
Keith de Lellis Gallery
41 East 57th Street, Suite 703
New York NY 10022