Chronicling Ballet’s Pain and Passion

December 31st, 2012

Roslyn Sulcas writes: The photographer Henry Leutwyler was building a career in fashion and portrait work in Paris in the late 1980s when he was sent on assignment to photograph Jorge Donn, the charismatic principal dancer who had risen to fame with Maurice Béjart’s Ballet of the 20th Century. The job proved to be a turning point for the Swiss-born Mr. Leutwyler, now 51, who subsequently spent time photographing Mr. Donn and his fellow dancers in Béjart’s company, which was based in Lausanne, Switzerland.

After moving to New York in 1996 Mr. Leutwyler continued to take celebrity portraits but found a way back to dance when New York City Ballet hired him to document repertory pieces. One assignment turned into several more, and eventually he won permission to take pictures backstage, in class and rehearsal. The result is “Ballet: Photographs of the New York City Ballet,” (Steidl, $ 88), a weighty tome that offers a subtle, revealing view of the life of one of the world’s most prominent ballet companies.

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