Inside “The Style of Movement” by NYC Dance Project
In 2016, Brooklyn-based photographers Ken Browar and Deborah Ory of NYC Dance Project published their first book entitled, “The Art of Movement.” The stunning 304-page book captured shots of over 70 professional dancers from New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet and more. With backgrounds in photography, dance and editorial, the husband and wife duo captured breathtaking movement of the world’s most prominent dancers in a groundbreaking way (read our 2016 story here).
This year, NYC Dance Project is back with their second book, “The Style of Movement: Fashion & Dance,” a 300-page title which celebrates the relationship between contemporary movement in dance and high fashion. This relationship is one steeped in today’s most renowned designers comprised of vintage Valentino, Dior, Oscar de la Renta and Moschino with stars from all over the globe including Misty Copeland, Tiler Peck, Xander Parish and Michael Trusnovec, to name a few. Editorial pages also include costumes originally designed by the late Martha Graham, showcasing the duo’s versatility.
Though Browar and Ory have long since proved their artistry with their 2016 title, “The Style of Movement” is something of a new frontier—one that truly demonstrates their eye for capturing figures in motion. The 2019 book also shows the nuances of their creativity while still staying faithful to their voice as artists. As true masters of their craft, the new title sets NYC Dance Project atop the world of dance photography in a way that only they could have envisioned. With one of their latest shots from “The Style of Movement” now gracing VUE’s 2019 Holiday Issue cover, the pair’s work has also been featured in Harper’s Bazaar, Italian Vogue and Dior Magazine. I recently caught up with NYC Dance Project and detailed some behind the scenes thoughts about how the project began and how it was executed. “The Style of Movement” is also available for purchase on Amazon Prime.
Where did the idea for “The Style of Movement” originate? What was the creative process like?
We had released a book “The Art of Movement” in 2016, which featured the top dancers from around the world. The dancers were photographed in leotards, costumes and also we used some fashion. The images with fashion were very well received and we loved the way the dancers were able to move the clothing and how the clothes looked in movement. The garments felt almost like a partner for the dancers, they responded to the dancers movement and added shape and form to the images. We decided to expand upon this theme of fashion and dance and see where it would go.
In the past, NYC Dance Project has been able to capture dancers and movement so incredibly well. What did the level of high fashion add to these shoots that separated it from your previous work?
The fashion really added a new element to our photographs. Every piece was carefully picked and added a new, dynamic level. The fashion helped to set the mood and feeling of each image. In addition, the clothing dictated the type and amount of movement the dancer could do. It helped to define what the image would look and feel like. For example, a flowing piece from Issey Miyake, would have a very different feel, and inspire a very different type of movement than a more constricting, formal gown.
For you, what does “The Style of Movement” say about the relationship between dance and fashion?
Dance and fashion have a long history and relationship, we simply explored this relationship and how we could capture it photographically. In photography, you can freeze these moments in a way that’s very different from a live performance. You can capture extraordinary moments that pass by quickly in a performance and seem almost unreal when you can see that brief moment in time in a still image.
How long did the project take to complete from start to finish?
We spent about three years making this book. The book is over 300 pages, so there are a lot of photographs! We also spent a lot of time coordinating the clothing, the text, working on the layouts, etc. It’s a big project making a book!
How did you decide which dancers to collaborate with? How did you choose costumes for each?
We’ve always picked dancers I admired and liked the way they move. Some are more famous than others, some are more classical. For [us], it’s just a matter of a dancer who I enjoy watching and I believe can contribute to the photograph. We worked with each dancer to find out what their personal style was and what they would like to be photographed in. We tried to match the dancers and their style of movement with clothing as though we were choosing a partner for them.
As creatives, how did you feel during the project? Can you think back to a special moment during production?
Honestly, we weren’t not sure if we would pull off all the photographs. One of the most difficult photographs was of Meaghan Grace Hinkis, who is wearing a dress made of flowers. We had a florist and a costume designer working with us to create the dress. It was an idea we had years ago, but took some time to put together the right team and coordinate getting the flowers. On the set, it took us several hours to make the dress and we had to make it on the dancer. It became so heavy, she could barely move in it and flowers were dying as we were making the dress. We were so worried it would not make it until the final photograph—but we are thrilled with how it worked out!
I know it’s often hard for you both to choose favorites. What ultimately made you land on the shot of Tiler (Peck) for the book’s cover?
Tiler has always been a favorite dancer and friend for both of us and we have worked with her many times before. As one of our most accomplished ballerinas, it was natural to think of her for our cover. The deal was sealed when we saw the stunning vintage dress that Valentino selected for her to wear. It was absolutely breathtaking and we knew it would be perfect for a cover. With its timeless style and beautiful movement—it was exactly the message we were looking for.
What does “The Style of Movement” say about NYC Dance Project’s future from a creative standpoint?
That’s a tough question! We both feel really proud to have completed two books in a pretty short amount of time. Unfortunately, during this time we had a fire in our home/studio space and had to relocate. This happened just a week after our book went to press. It felt very symbolic in a strange way, it really felt like an ending to that part of our project. We are taking a bit of time to regroup, but I believe our new work will look slightly different. I’m sure we will still keep our same “voice” as artists, but we hope to work more in different locations and get out of the studio. We do love working with dancers and fashion, so I’m sure you will be seeing those elements continue in our work.
What does this project milestone mean for you as a couple/family?
It’s wonderful to be able to work on a project like this with your spouse and to be able to share in our creativity and work. It’s not often that you get to share something as special as making a book with someone you love and it means a lot for us to have been able to make two books together.
“The Style of Movement: Fashion & Dance” by Ken Browar and Deborah Ory is available for purchase on Amazon Prime.