When it comes to the world of dance, collaboration seems to happen quite naturally. And for photography team Ken Browar and Deborah Ory, creators of NYC Dance Project, that is the basis of their success. Their work, which is famous for capturing the effortlessness of dancers in motion, has been featured in magazines and galleries worldwide, and most recently, was the cover of VUE’s latest Arts & Culture issue.
Ory has been a dancer since the age of seven and Browar made a name for himself as a fashion and beauty photographer in Paris. After an injury took a toll on Ory during college, she stumbled upon photography, eventually landing herself photo editorships for various well-known magazines and editorial shoots. It wasn’t until later on, through the help of their daughters, that they realized a collaboration between dance and photography was an opportunity waiting to be discovered.
“We knew we wanted to do some sort of project and at the time, both of our children were dancing,” Ory explained. “They were studying at the American Ballet Theater and I was going there all the time, waiting for them, hearing the music, and I really started to miss dance. My daughter, who was 13 at the time, wanted to redecorate her room and she wanted pictures of famous ballet dancers from the ABT school where she was studying but we couldn’t find any. So, we ended up shooting the pictures ourselves. We started with one of the ABT principals who had a large social media following and once he posted a couple of the pictures, we were suddenly getting calls from lots of different dancers and the project really took off.”
Since then, the pair has worked with notable dancers from across the world, including VUE’s latest cover star and ABT Principal Dancer, Misty Copeland. And while finding the perfect subject isn’t always easy, Ory mentioned that many actually seek out her and Browar on their own. “It’s a real combination but we oftentimes get approached by dancers, especially when they’re coming in from out of town. We also reach out to people that we’ve seen perform and that we’d like shoot. We go to a lot of dance performances and we’re very active in the dance community.”
This past year, NYC Dance Project released their first book, “The Art of Movement”, a compilation of photography and interviews with over 300 pages and featuring more than 70 dancers. The duo also just released their first short film with the same title, featuring Daniil Simkin and Cassandra Trenary, a Principal and Soloist for ABT. “It’s always been a dream to work with such beautiful dancers and with people who are so expressive with their movements,” Ory remarked. ”It feels like the perfect thing to photograph. And it’s so much more fun working with someone who can actually move. When you have movement, it gives the photo a lot more energy and emotion. I find it hard to capture that same sort of excitement elsewhere.”
As far as their future is concerned, Browar and Ory hope to join forces with the fashion industry, drawing from Browar’s past endeavors and creating campaigns that merge dance and design. The two are even considering starting on a second book but for now, are focusing on showcasing their work around the country. “We’re going to be doing two gallery shows in February. We have a show at Lincoln Center and then in Palm Beach.” When asked if they had a favorite project that they’ve worked on thus far, Browar was quick to chime in. “I think for us, we’re always striving to do the next best thing. Personally, I’ve always thought that when you have a favorite or think you’ve landed ‘the’ shot, it’s time to move onto another project.” And while we hope the duo doesn’t plan on moving on too soon, we’re certain you’ll be seeing a lot more of them (and their work) in the months to come.