My OBT

My daily quest for One Beautiful Thing (OBT)

Pas de Degas

31 Comments

degas 1

Ken Browar & Deborah Ory for Harper’s Bazaar

A few months ago, I wrote about the American Ballet Theater’s newest principal dancer, the groundbreaking Misty Copeland. Since I’m already a big fan, you can imagine my delight when I saw her spread in this month’s “Harper’s Bazaar” recreating the famous ballet-themed paintings and sculptures of Edgar Degas. In the accompanying article, Copeland has some very interesting things to say about the process of recreating Degas’ Paris Opéra Ballet works:

“It was interesting to be on a shoot and to not have the freedom to just create like I normally do with my body.” –Misty Copeland for Harper’s Bazaar

I found the photos to be really beautiful, but something bothered me about them, and it’s taken me a couple of days to figure out what it is. In Degas’ paintings, the dancers feel to me to be only one element of the scenery. The dancers in the foreground and the dancers and scenery in the background are all given the the same weight, the same importance. His individual dancers don’t stand out from the paintings in the same way that Copeland pops out of the photos. She is just too strong a presence to completely recreate the feeling of the paintings, though no one can fault either the art direction or her perfect poses.

Mind you, I’m not complaining. I think the photos are lovely, and I’m sure you’re going to enjoy them, too.

Ken Browar & Deborah Ory for Harper's Bazaar

Ken Browar & Deborah Ory for Harper’s Bazaar

Ken Browar & Deborah Ory for Harper's Bazaar

Ken Browar & Deborah Ory for Harper’s Bazaar

Ken Browar & Deborah Ory for Harper's Bazaar

Ken Browar & Deborah Ory for Harper’s Bazaar

Ken Browar & Deborah Ory for Harper's Bazaar

Ken Browar & Deborah Ory for Harper’s Bazaar

Ken Browar & Deborah Ory for Harper's Bazaar

Ken Browar & Deborah Ory for Harper’s Bazaar

Ken Browar & Deborah Ory for Harper's Bazaar

Ken Browar & Deborah Ory for Harper’s Bazaar

Author: Donna from MyOBT

I have committed to spending part of every day looking for at least one beautiful thing, and sharing what I find with you lovelies!

31 thoughts on “Pas de Degas

  1. It’s a strange world where living people become simulacra—even stranger when, too, what is being simulated is one art in place of the other.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m like you, Donna. Mixed feelings. There’s a softness and gentleness in the paintings that disappears in the photographs. I’m sure Misty can do soft and gentle but it’s hard to compare the mega-pixel images to the feathered brush strokes of Degas. Love the second photo.

    And I just noticed something else. In the first pair, the arm of the dancer in the painting is not fully extended and her line breaks at the wrist where her hand does not follow. Not so with Misty. Maybe the dancers in the paintings were not as accomplished as Misty Copeland, or at least that’s how Degas captured the scene.

    All of this makes the post even more interesting to me. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s a great observation! I went back and looked again, and I see just what you mean about the first painting. As you say, it may be that the dancer wasn’t as accomplished as Misty, but it’s also possible that the style of the pose has evolved since Degas’ time. Maybe the continuous line is a newer fashion. I think the athleticism of female ballet dancers was meant to be hidden back then. They were expected to seem fragile, weak even. Maybe Misty’s stronger lines are borne out of that more modern trend to feature women’s power rather than concealing it. Thank you so much for making me think so early (for me) in the morning!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. When I was younger I participated in a ballet recital that was inspired by a Degas painting – this brings back so many memories!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I really enjoy your blog and look forward to a surprise with every post. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was reading about this shoot yesterday. I really like the concept they were aiming for, of demonstrating the changing face of ballet, a shift in perceptions, but I do think something doesn’t quite mesh for me. I think Copeland is incredible and certainly the photographs in isolation are superb. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was bothering me though until I read your post. It is that the dancers as figures are only part of the painting for Degas. The other dancers and the mise en scene are as important to the balance of his compositions as the focal figure or figures. In the photographs, the focus is very much on Copeland. That’s why the image that struck me as most successful was the recreation of the little dancer sculpture, because she’s always been in isolation.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think your point is quite true. She stands out more than the main figure in the paintings. I feel this is due to lighting. The lighting seems to concentrate on her face, where as that is not true in all the paintings. Additionally, this creates floor lighting and shadow that does not always exist in the picture.
    Okay….enough pontificating.
    I like the pictures and the paintings though. It is really interesting to see life imitate art. In a similar, but completely different vein, I watch a thing on YouTube where women tried to pose like super heroines….you could imagine the difficulty in some of those poses,.

    Thanks again for your blog. It is awesome and I am glad I get to check it out so often.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. In the first Degas painting on the left, the art gives me a feeling of love and joy for the art of dance – everyone enjoying it together. The photo on the right looks more like ego to me and the dancer just showing off in her own little world. It’s the facial expressions that make the difference.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Leaving the shallowness of my thoughts when ever I watch Misty dance aside. I think the Degas paintings have an ethereal nature not captured in the Harper’s pictures. It is because of how Degas captured the light I think.
    I hope you post much more of Misty.
    Oops there I go being shallow again.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Reblogged this on ARHtistic License and commented:
    Thank you to Donna from MyOBT for this fabulous guest post. I love all things ballet!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I actually think that both versions are beautiful. It is just in very different ways.

    Liked by 1 person

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