Ballet Paintings by Rachel Isadora, Painter Laureate of the Dance, at 2/20 Gallery, New York

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The first one-man show of oil paintings by one of the world’s most prolific and widely published children’s book authors and illustrators.

“The real treat”— The New York Times.

It takes a dancer to depict dancers in the midst of a pirouette (whirl) or jeté (throwing spin). The old masters associated with the dance, notably Degas, could only depict dancers in static poses. Only artists who have actually been dancers have the knowledge, it seems, to show dancers in action.

So when the Metropolitan Museum of Art planned its just-published Invitation to Ballet, it paired familiar Degas works with newly commissioned illustrations by the prolific author and illustrator, and former Boston Ballet member, Rachel Isadora. “The real treat is seeing Isadora’s picture-book portraits of students,” raved The New York Times in its May 9 review of the book.

The colorful and rigorous oil paintings depict dances and dancers who played formative roles during her years of study in the New York City Ballet and professional work with the Boston Ballet.

Serenade, Four Dancers presents a scene from Serenade, which New York City Ballet artistic director George Balanchine choreographed to Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings when he arrived in America in 1934. It remains one of the most frequently revived Balanchine works.

Firebird, an homage to Marc Chagall, portrays that artist’s staging of the Balanchine-choreographed classic that launched Stravinsky as the greatest composer of the 20th century.

Martha pays tribute to the “Picasso of Dance,” Martha Graham. “I began my career in dance at the New Dance Group, where many Graham disciples taught,” Isadora recalls. “I continued modern dance lessons until an age where I had to make a choice between modern dance and ballet. The two art forms differ in many ways, one being the wearing of toe shoes in ballet, where one dances on point, as opposed to dancing barefoot or with soft ballet slippers in modern dance, where one dances on demi-point.”

Anthony Williams, founder and Artistic Director of Boston’s BalletROX, says, “Rachel Isadora’s oil paintings capture what dance means to me. It takes a dancer to understand the movement, expression and nuance of dance and then to translate these on to canvas. She expresses, not only the performance as the audience sees it but the inner feelings and physical involvement experienced by the dancer.

“She was a dancer herself,” Williams continues, “and, as a dancer and choreographer myself, I recognize her ability to produce the technical side of dance as well, that is, the placement of the body. Other artists paint the dance but, technically, they do not reproduce the correct positions and steps in their paintings. I have experienced movement—a leap, a turn, a grande battement—through her use of color and light. She has invited us all into the world of dance.”

Rachel Isadora,
2/20 Gallery,

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