The release of Oscar winning film Black Swan in 2010 brought to public attention the extreme levels of discipline and control inherent within successful ballerinas. Not just in practice and routine but in performance itself – the ability to transform physical pain into a spectacle of grace and elegance.
It is this element which celebrated artist, James Ostrer, wanted to explore in his current photographical exhibition The Romance of Perfection. Moscow-born principal dancer, Maria Kochetkova, acts as muse, an appropriate subject for both she and Ostrer have worked together intermittently over the last ten years.
Ostrer says what interests him about Kochetkova are the various sides to her character which are hidden by an innate ability to contain and tolerate. Ostrer wanted to expose these elements, shooting Kochetkova in a series of poses which suggest vulnerability, playfulness, rebellion; characteristics repressed daily by the requirements of her trade.
In one piece for example, she holds an arabesque bound by lashings of vintage pink ribbon. In another, she sits atop a plinth, styled in a Merchant Archive lace-bow jacket from the waist up. Below, her bare legs are raised to a point, supported by taut muscles starkly highlighted through the use of shadow and light. Another shot captures her dressed in a trouser suit; black with white ruffled collar, puffed buttons and drooping sleeves, it has definitive circus connotations. The garment swamps the fragile dancer and she stands en pointe with her head facing downwards, as if repenting her rebellious get up.
"Ostrer shot Kochetkova in a series of poses which suggest vulnerability, playfulness, rebellion; characteristics repressed daily by the requirements of her trade."
In the wake of the Olympics, The Romance of Perfection is perfectly timed. For where strength, dedication and discipline paved the way for medal success, Ostrer has tapped into the ‘character’ which underlies this determination to perform, applicable to all kinds of entertainers – be they ballerinas or athletes.
The Romance of Perfection: A Photographic Exhibition by James Ostrer, runs at Merchant Archive from September 13 to January 2013.
Text by Edwina Langley