Betti Franceschi

Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art. — Eleanor Roosevelt

In 1983, I accompanied my daughter to Paris, where she danced at the Theatre du Châtelet with the New York City Ballet. There was of course a gala in the second week, at which the audience in the foyer was as exciting as the performance on the stage. Among the beautiful, couturier-dressed women of that haut monde, none were so commanding as the ballerinas of "a certain age" -- few of them rich, but each in a designer jacket that dated and spoke from her artistic coming together. In the dialogue between art and couture that has always been unique to Paris, each of these étoiles still carried herself in the physical language of her technical peak and the zeitgeist of that moment.

Those grand dames, and those who have followed, must be honored and recorded. I do not photograph old ladies or gents, but the ageless artist still rampant in each of my subjects.

I am interested in bodies that speak. This project left fashion behind and went for the core, the language of physicality, becoming the opposing hand to my Signature drawings.

My interest has always been in the expressive energy written into each dancer's body. The dancer’s body is her visible mind, her instrument. Her placement and movement are her voice.

My Signature drawings are movement drawings of the dancers at their technical peak. inner line. In the Ageless Dancers, my subjects photographed in black against a black ground, the black-on-black absorbs mass and articulates thought and movement. Bodies may deteriorate, but art transcends facility and even technique. The line remains.

It’s been an honor and a thrill to see these iconic dancers manifest a kind of immortality!

I must confess that my fundamental motivation is to refute the youth-enthralled ageism of the American culture we live in. People are living longer and staying engaged and vibrant well into and past the old rocking-chair decades.

These are icons for my generation. I am 84.

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