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NYCB Vol. 7 No. 14 - Afternoon of a Faun

“Every ballet, I believe, is individual. It sets up its own world, its own society and mores; it has its own life. The approach, therefore must be specific in each case…”— Jerome Robbins: By Himself (affiliate link)

When I found this series of photos of Robbins rehearsing his dancers in Faun, they took my breath away. Seeing a master at work—thanks to genius photographer, Martha Swope. Each of these shots is a work of art. She captures rehearsal moments so beautifully.

I found these photos on contact sheets, meaning each one of these is just a proof, not a final print, and is just 1 inch tall. They also contained Martha's red marker scribblings of possible crop markings and other artistic considerations. I did some restoration on these images to make them presentable and showcase them in a way that will tell you a short story. An afternoon in the studio with a master.

1) The dreamy quality of Robbins' movement

2) The smoke swirling out of his cigarette. (It reminds me of how many other cigarette-smoking legends Martha got to capture in the studio i.e. Fosse and Bennett)

3) I love the way Robbins is looking at Wilma in the mirror just as the dancers do in the choreography.

4) I love how she captures his soulful demonstration of the port de bras. (And the SMOKING PROHIBITED sign in the background)

5) The seemingly coincidental mirrored resting poses of Wilma and Jay and the pianist.

6) The way Jerry is dressed just like the dancers.

7) The way the cigarette hangs from his lips as he demonstrates and lunges even deeper than Jay does in the last picture.

Robbins in rehearsals with Wilma Curley and Jay Norman for Afternoon of a Faun before the 1958 tour of Ballets: U.S.A. Photos by Martha Swope. New York Public Library

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