Art | Need To Now

A designer captures ballet’s backstage magic

A special sale of ballet photographs, taken by Paul Smith

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A designer captures ballet’s backstage magic

Image: Paul Smith

September 21 2010
Alison Gunn

Paul Smith is an iconic figure in the design world, but it is not widely known that he is also a talented photographer. Several months ago he met Steven McRae, a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet and a huge fan of Paul Smith. They came up with the idea of Smith taking a series of photographs of the principals of the Royal Ballet, to be shown (from September 23 to October 9) in a special selling exhibition at the Paul Smith store on Albemarle Street, London.

Photographed backstage at the Royal Opera House, the engaging monochrome portraits capture the personality of each of the dancers, who are wearing a mixture of their own and Paul Smith clothes. Marianela Nuñez (first picture) leans away from the barre in an elegant Smith dogtooth check skirt, one arm raised high and a mischievously enigmatic look on her face. Thiago Soares (second picture) limbers on a set of stairs, his legs forming sharp angles against the balustrades. Then there is Roberta Marquez (third picture), performing an elegant arabesque next to a scenery tower in a shadowy picture that has echoes of Angus McBean. And Johan Kobborg, in signature Smith stripes and a beanie, leaps impossibly in a chilly rehearsal room.

Smith demonstrates a clean, light touch in his playful scenarios, beautiful lines and clever use of light. The unframed prints are for sale in two sizes – 90cm x 60cm (£1,500) and 41cm x 30.5cm (£350) – in limited editions of 20, and would make the perfect present for balletomanes and fashionistas alike. All sales support the work of the Royal Opera House.