Betti Franceschi

In 1983, I accompanied my daughter who danced with New York City Ballet at the Theatre du Châtelet in Paris. There was of course a gala, at which the audience in the foyer was as exciting as the performance on the stage. Among the beautiful and expensively-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 unique physical language of her peak and the zeitgeist of that moment.

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

I take dancers as my subjects because 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 by and into each dancer's body. The dancer's body is her instrument, her visible mind. The inner line, of both energy and movement, is her voice.

In photographing my subjects dressed in black and against a black ground, I can capture the line of thought and movement that is each dancer's signature. The black-on-black absorbs irrelevant mass and articulates the energy.

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 83.

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No image is to be used in any manner without permission.