Aptly titled, this exhibition freezes ballet's fleeting moments of infinite grace, not only through the lens of great photographers but, perhaps more importantly, as embodied by the great danseurs and danseuses of the modern era. If anything, the gestural expressiveness and physical demands of ballet at its highest level seem tailor-made for photographic study, and these examples are rich with the kinetic charge and high glamor of the greats as well as superb studies of ballet's student ranks, lending photography's documentary power to an iconography that had been established and dominated by Degas.
Thus, Max Waldman’s superb performance shots--in which many of the great names from Baryshnikov to Farrell, Makarova, and Martins are seen in their staged flights of rapturous fancy--communicate the power of ballet with stunning immediacy. These silver prints from the heyday of the 1970s, when ballet achieved popular breakthroughs, are perfect complements to the chronicle of fine-art photography, while Kim Camba’s documentary images from the same era–of students, their dance masters and mistresses–bring a fresh realism and gritty dance-studio atmosphere to the subject.
And in vintage images by the likes of Alfred Eisenstaedt, Maurice Seymour, and Laure Albin-Guillot, the student life as well as the formality of ballet in the 1930s and '40s are given a more classical cast, in portraiture and studies steeped in rich tonalities and impeccable composition. This exhibition does nothing less than explore the range of modern photography's relation to the ballet, in photographs that illuminate the beauty, flair and, inevitably, the anxiety of striving for the perfections promised by ballet's aspirational artistry.