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Life-Sized Photographs Expose the Brutality of Ballet Bodies

Rick Guest’s 'What Lies Beneath' series reveals the strength underlying the world’s greatest dancers’ elegance.
Melissa Hamilton, Principal dancer of the Semperoper Ballet, Dresden. All images courtesy the artist

Mesmerized by the beauty of the ballet dancer on stage, it’s easy to forget the struggle and sacrifice that goes into making it all look so effortless. This is the premise of photographer Rick Guest's latest exhibition, What Lies Beneath, which shows at The Hospital Club Gallery in London through January 31. The photographs, which are blown up to actual human proportions, feature some of the world’s greatest ballet dancers shot in a way that emphasizes the brutality of their medium.


Previous projects by Rick Guest have included series on Olympic athletes, birds of prey, Formula 1 cars, and other high-performance subjects. With meticulous attention to detail, he attempts to reveal the essence of his subject and go deeper than what is usually seen. Assisted by long time collaborator stylist Olivia Pomp, Guest sought to “strip away the external layers of costume, role and performance to reveal the character of the dancers themselves.” Mega-stars are humanized and a new level of intimacy is achieved. Tamara Rojo manages to look glamorous even when she’s not trying to, while the bad boy of ballet, Sergei Polunin. is suspended Christ-like in midair. Here, the unreachable magicians of the stage are brought up close and personal for all to see.

See more of the incredible artist-athletes below:

Edward Watson, Principal of the Royal Ballet

Nehemiah Kish, Principal of Royal Ballet. Yuhui Cho, First soloist of the Royal Ballet

Eric Underwood, Soloist of the Royal Ballet

Alban Lendorf, Principal of the Royal Danish Ballet

Sergei Polunin

Tamara Rojo, Lead principal dancer and Director of the English National Ballet

Olivia Cowley, Soloist of Royal Ballet

Louis McMiller, Dancer for Wayne McGregor - Random Dance

All of the works are available for sale in limited editions of six. Accompanying the exhibition is a book featuring many more photographs from the series, and an essay by Sarah Crompton. For more information, visit Hospital Club Gallery’s website.


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