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 with New York City Ballet at the Theatre du Châtelet. There was of course a gala in the second week, at which I found the audience in the foyer 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. After six decades drawing, painting and sculpting dancers, this project is a departure for me only in the sense that these works are digital photographs, rather than from my hand.

My interest has always been in the expressive line written into each dancer's body. The dancer’s body is the instrument, her visible mind. The inner line of moving energy is the voice.

My Signatures are movement drawings of the moving dancer’s inner line. In the Ageless Dancers, photographing my subjects dressed in black and against a black ground, the black-on-black absorbs mass and articulates thought and movement. The body may deteriorate, but the line remains.

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

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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