Three weeks ago, Patricia Mears gave me an advance copy of “Ballerina: Fashion’s Modern Muse,” the catalogue for the upcoming FIT exhibit. It was even more beautiful than I’d expected: Vendome’s printing and reproductions are so pristine.
I love the photo of Hayden, Tallchief, Le Clercq together in my “Dryads of West 55th Street” essay. It embodies the spirit of the essay; it tells the story wordlessly. But in the spirit of Henry James’ “The whole of anything is never told,” I haven’t told the whole story of this photo, also in part because of caption space limitations. But I did mention that it was taken in Paris, which is for me part of the emblematic message of the photo: ballerinas of the New World bringing themselves and their recently-formed New York City Ballet to the city that cradled the art form.
They’re facing outward, off-stage but still performing, projecting amid a liminal state between full theatricality, public persona, and personal reality. They really look relaxed and happy.
I’ll give you some additional backstory:
The ballerinas are dressed as themselves, each wearing different iterations of cocktail party attire at a celebration of the “Salute a France” Festival in which NYCB participated at the Champs-Elysee theater in spring 1955.
If you look closely you’ll see that Le Clercq is fingering something and if you look more closely you’ll be able to see that Hayden and Tallchief are as well–those are little medallions they were given to commemorate their participation in the Festival. Obviously they’ve been asked to show them for the camera.
They are three distinct, strong personalities: their amperage is such that they almost become the flashbulb bursting on the page in perpetuity.