Music and art often help inspire each other with artists using music as inspiration and art helping musicians and dancers with visual inspiration. Capturing dance in art isn’t the simplest task – how do you capture something that is about movement in a medium that is still and motionless? It is possible and here are some of the best from great artists both historical and modern that show how it can be done – and in many different styles!
The Spanish Ballet by Edouard Manet
Captured just before they began their performance, this piece from Manet featured the Royal Spanish dance troupe as they were preparing to dance at the Paris Hippodrome. Included in the company is Lola Melea, one of the most famous dancers of the time.
Ballet Dancers by Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas was one artist who was a huge ballet fan and often depicted dance and dancers in his artwork. He created pieces that had everything from brightly lit concert hall stages to the rehearsal studios, all based on what he saw around his Paris home. Ballet Dancers is currently in the National Gallery and shows a dancer pausing to adjust her ballet shoe while others are continuing to dance.
Rule Britannia by Spencer Gore
Spencer Gore’s was a short artistic career and he spent much of it in the English countryside, vividly capturing what he saw. But in this piece, he caught Danish ballerina Britta Petersen performing a ballet called Our Flag. Gore painted what he saw with his usually vivid colours including Petersen with her Union Jack flag tutu and her fellow dancers gathered around.
Vaslav Nijinsky in ‘Le Spectre de la Rose by Auguste Bert
This early photography captured Vaslav Nijinsky in the character of The Rose and wearing a costume created with individually appliqued rose petals, made by Leon Baskt. Nijinsky was known as the greatest male dancer of his age and his amazing leap through the window at the end of the dance is one of his most famous moments.
The Dancer by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska
Henri Gaudier-Brzeska created this sculpture to be fluid and to capture his fascination with movement. Interestingly, it was not modelled on a dancer but a fellow painter, Nina Hamnett. She was famous for dancing naked in her studio!
The Ballet Shoe by Dame Laura Knight
British artist Dame Laura Knight caught the historic moment when the Bolshoi Ballet performed at the Royal Opera House for the first time since the Russian Revolution. In the piece, she had the prima ballerina Lydia Lopokova pose for her, adjusting her shoe ready for the rehearsal.
Darcey Bussell by Allen Jones
This piece is currently in the National Portrait Gallery and features Darcy Bussell, one of the UK’s top ballerinas. Bussell reached the role of Principal Dancer at the age of just twenty in 1989 with the Royal Ballet and was famous for her part in ballets such as Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. She is now a judge on the popular Strictly Come Dancing show.