Costas dance photographs

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Collection Data

The Costas dance photographs consists of prints, negatives, slides, and digital images from 1966 to 2016 of a multitude of national and international dance companies, performances, and important figures in the dance world. The collection has an emphasis on ballet, particularly the New York City Ballet. In addition, a small portion of the collection consists of non-ballet personal and professional photographs documenting trips, parties, friends, and art forms.
Costas (Photographer)
Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1966 - 2016
Library locations
Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Shelf locator: *MGZEB 18-2788
Aroldingen, Karin von, 1941-2018
Balanchine, George
Baryshnikov, Mikhail, 1948-
Farrell, Suzanne, 1945
Kistler, Darci, 1964-
Martins, Peter, 1946-
Nichols, Kyra
Robbins, Jerome
Stiefel, Ethan
American Ballet Theatre
Bolʹshoĭ teatr SSSR. Balet
Kongelige Danske ballet
Mariinskiĭ teatr (1991- ). Balet
New York City Ballet
Royal Ballet
Modern dance
Performing arts
Biographical/historical: The photographer, Costas, has been the photographer in residence at both New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre for over forty years. In addition, he has documented both the Kirov (Mariinsky) and the Bolshoi ballet companies on their U.S. tours since the 1960s. Hailing from the Greek island of Chios, Costas studied in the United States at Wagner College on New York's Staten Island, at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, and at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island where he focused on math and physics. When dance photography began to intrigue him, choreographer George Balanchine invited him to rehearsals. The resulting dance pictures have appeared in a variety of publications including books, periodicals, film and television footage and in gallery exhibitions around the world. Costas' 2003 book, Balanchine: Celebrating a Life in Dance, has gone through several editions. Costas was also responsible for the photographs included in the annual Balanchine calendar which featured dancers of the New York City Ballet for 19 years.
Content: The Costas dance photographs collection documents various dance forms from the late 1960s to 2016 with an emphasis on ballet. Over two dozen dance companies were photographed by Costas during his nearly 50 year career. The collection arrived in no discernable order from the creator. The initial collection assessment identified three distinct formats and an order was imposed on the collection to make it accessible to researchers. The three series are photographic prints, negatives, and slides (which make up the majority of the collection). They are arranged alphabetically by dance company, performance, and/or dancer with the exception of the New York City Ballet (NYCB) which precedes all other companies due to its large volume of materials. Costas voraciously documented the New York City Ballet throughout his career and in turn the collection reflects this with nearly 75% of the collection dedicated to the Ballet's repertoire, principal dancers, and choreographers. Key figures throughout the NYCB's history such as co-founders Lincoln Kirstein, Jerome Robbins, and George Balanchine are present within the collection in addition to their many choreographed works. Most often they were photographed candidly while rehearsing with dancers on and off stage. Jerome Robbins' signature works such as Glass Pieces, The Goldberg Variations, and Fancy Free are just a few among the many in the NYCB's repertory. Likewise, Balanchine's earliest works such as La Sonnambula, Bourrée Fantasque, and The Firebird are represented as well as later compositions such as Walpurgisnacht and Ballo della Regina. Additionally, the career of former principal dancer and director Peter Martins' is chronicled throughout NYCB performances and later taking the helm of the company by directing and choreographing. Costas has spent years documenting many of New York City Ballet's most significant and famous works including The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and A Midsummer Night's Dream. In addition to documenting the Company's repertory, Costas focused on photographing many of the iconic star principal dancers including Karin von Aroldingen, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Albert Evans, Suzanne Farrell, Nikolaj Hübbe, Darci Kistler, Maria Kowroski, Kyra Nichols, Patricia McBride, Maria Tallchief, Miranda Weese, and Ethan Stiefel. Costas also travelled widely around the world to photograph both national and international dance companies. Some of the ballet companies well represented within the collection are American Ballet Theatre, Mariinsky (Kirov) Ballet Company, Bolshoi Ballet, Béjart Ballet, Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris, Chicago City Ballet, Joffrey Ballet Company, Royal Danish Ballet, and the Royal Ballet of the United Kingdom. In addition to ballet, he also photographed many New York City based modern dance companies including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Martha Graham Dance Company, and Paul Taylor Dance Company. There is also a small portion of the collection that contains non-ballet photographs, both personal and professional. These photographs include Costas' personal possessions, Metropolitan Opera performances, Japanese Bunraku puppet performances, images of flowers, and various non-dance events such as the annual New York City Halloween parade and the 1988 Galanos Fur fashion show. Most of the non-dance photographs, however, are made up of travel photographs that Costas took during trips around the world and within the United States.
Physical Description
Extent: 68 boxes (28.15 linear feet)
Type of Resource
Still image
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b21309737
MSS Unit ID: 24253
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 26e7b4f0-ef87-0137-2eb4-05b75e737ac4
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