Photos By Rick Prieur

Arts & Antiques

Where Ballet and Painting Fuse

Dancers from the Academy of International Ballet paid homage to a dance legend at the Brandywine River Museum of Art.

By Bill Conville |

Classical ballet and painting converged at the Brandywine River Museum of Art as dancers from Media’s Academy of International Ballet elegantly surrounded the famous works of Jamie Wyeth.

Under the direction of artistic directors Anastasia Babayeva and Denis Gronostayskiy, classical ballet filled the galleries of the Chadds Ford museum to create a series of photographs with an artistic fusion of dancers and paintings. Russian born ballet legend Rudolf Nureyev served as the ballerinas’ inspiration, and his likeness surrounded them, immortalized on canvas by Wyeth. 

Nureyev was a significant figure in the art form. Although he was only 5 feet 8 inches tall, Nureyev created a technique of high jumping while moving across the stage. These high vertical leaps were novel to male ballet dancers.

Nureyev was born prematurely on a Trans-Siberian train in 1938 and trained at the Kirov Ballet Academy where he brought passion and uncompromising dedication to classical technique, dazzling audiences. At an October 1964 performance of “Swan Lake” in Vienna, Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn received 89 curtain calls, a record which remains unequalled today. 

“When Nureyev arrived on the ballet scene, it was a burst of new creative energy. He had a powerful impact on classical ballet. It was transformative to the art form but also for the role of the male dancer,” said Gronostayskiy. “Considering they jump higher than NBA players and lift women over their heads on a regular basis, the male ballet dancer consistently delivers performances that rival any professional athlete.”

Nureyev led a storied career, which ended with his performance in a 1992 production of “Sleeping Beauty” in Berlin. The following year, at the age of 54, he passed away. “As long as my ballets are danced, I will live,” Nureyev once said. That statement holds true as, to this day, his spirit and role in ballet lives on.

“He taught us that the stage is a sacred place, whatever the theater, whether it be the most prestigious and the most sophisticated, or the most humble and most rudimentary. He taught us to exist,” Élisabeth Platel, a French Prima Ballerina, once said.

That spirit could be felt as the AIB dancers gathered with warm smiles in the museum’s gallery. They adjusted their pointe shoes, and stretched, bending their bodies. Their many years of practices, rehearsals, performances, and standing in front of their own reflections in the studio, constantly correcting themselves, prepared them for moments like this.

Shoulder to shoulder, they posed with the paintings of Wyeth and a ballet giant. Babayeva spoke to the dancers in French, the international language of ballet, then in English, to perfect each pose and offer words of inspiration.

“Throughout history, dance has been used to communicate, to ward off war, to bring rain, to inspire blessings, to honor someone, to celebrate and to bring beauty into this world,” said Babayeva. “Our dancers bring beauty with a delicate mixture of fragility and power to the moment. They know that being in this beautiful museum of art and doing this photo shoot with Nureyev is a reminder to us all that classical ballet shares with us the privilege of having a soul. It offers us unconditional beauty. It is a role model for being alive.”