We really should be accustomed to prima ballerina Misty Copeland making us swoon by now. Every time we turn around, she’s doing something amazing, whether it’s starring on Broadway, shutting down body shaming and racial stereotypes with her inspiring Under Armour ads, hitting the New York Times bestseller list with her bittersweet memoir or shattering boundaries by becoming the first African American dancer in history to be promoted to principal at the legendary American Ballet Theatre. TBH, we still haven’t quite recovered from watching A Ballerina’s Tale, the amaze documentary about her life, three nights ago on PBS. Yet once again, Misty Copeland is taking our breath away. This time, in a stunning new series of photographs inspired by the art of Edgar Degas.
The pictures were taken by photographers Ken Browar and Deborah Ory of the NYC Dance Project and will appear in the upcoming March issue of Harper’s Bazaar. The breathtaking photos are a tribute to French Impressionist Edgar Degas, famous for his paintings and sculptures of dancers at the Paris Opéra Ballet during the 1860’s and 70’s. An exhibit of Degas’ work opens later this month at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
Jodo Hauptman, the senior curator of the exhibit, which is called Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty, told Harper’s, “Degas’s focus on dance is part of his engagement with depicting the subjects, spaces, rhythms, and sensations of modern life. His vision wanders and focuses, taking note of what usually is overlooked and homing in on what best reflects the conditions of his time.”
As such, his ballet paintings frequently show dancers during rehearsal, in the wings, slipping on ballet shoes or adjusting their costumes.
Copeland is, of course, stunning in the pictures. According to Harper’s, she felt a special affinity for Degas’ one and only ballerina sculpture, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. She says, “I definitely feel like I can see myself in that sculpture—she just seems content but also reserved. I was really shy and introverted at that age. I don’t even have an image in my head of what I remember a ballerina being or existing before I took a ballet class. Ballet was just the one thing that brought me to life.”
Deborah Ory, one of the photographers involved with the project, feels the same. She told HelloGiggles that she and her partner, Ken Browar, love many Degas pieces, but she says, “I’ve always loved the statue of young dancer.” Ory and Browar have photographed Misty Copeland before and have known her for a while.
Ballet may have brought Copeland to life, but now this incredibly talented dancer is taking ballet and bringing it to the masses. The dance form is experiencing something of a renaissance at the moment, thanks in large part to Copeland’s popularity.
You can learn more about the artwork of Edgar Degas here, and you can find the issue of Harper’s Bazaar with these beautiful photos on newsstands next month. In the meantime, we bow down to you Misty! We can’t wait to see what you do next!