NYC Dance Project is a photography project by dance photographers Ken Browar & Deborah Ory. They published their book Art of Movement that showcases the beauty of movement through dance. They photographed classical and modern dancers from all over the world such as Charlotte Landreau, Julian McKay, Daniil Skim, Miriam Miller and many more.

The Art Of Movement - NYC Dance Project - Dance Photographers - Ken Browar & Deborah OryWe say beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, but what happens when the beholder cannot see it? Ken Browar and Deborah Ory [photographers behind the NYC Dance Project] bring to the eye what is often missed. Sometimes, beauty lies in the instant, in a frozen movement, when you hold your breath.

The husband and wife photographers seized the grace and beauty of dance with “The Art of Movement, a stunning compilation of gravity defying photos of the most talented dancers of our time. With incredible colors, poses, and lights, they captured the essence of dance revealing the untold story of the dancers’ bodies.

Sitting comfortably in the living room of their friendly Brooklyn studio-loft, Ken and Deborah welcomed me for the interview as they welcomed the 70 dancers they portrayed in their “NYC Dance project”: with love, two Bengal cats and a true sense of sharing. Meet dance photographers Ken Browar & Deborah Ory.

NYC Dance Project – ballet dancer Charlotte Landreau – Photography by Ken Browar & Deborah Ory
NYC Dance Project – ballet dancer Julian McKay – Photography by Ken Browar & Deborah Ory

What inspired you to start the NYC Dance project? How did a simple photo for your daughter’s room become such a piece of art?

Ken Browar: I grew up in Los Angeles, I didn’t get accepted to Art School so, I went to Paris for 6 months and I stayed there for 20 years. Eventually I came back to the United States and decided not to pursue fashion or beauty photography anymore. Then I met Deborah. Deborah was a Fashion editor, a photographer and a dancer. We always wanted to do some kind of creative project together. We started to do a few photos for the wall of our 13-year-old daughter Sarah’s room. The photos of dancers were coming out really well.  The dancers all told their friends about us and word spread within the community.  We made an Instagram account and suddenly had a lot of followers.  We thought the photos would work well as a book.

“ We wanted to capture some of the essence of the dancer”

Dancers are perfectionists, how did you deal with that?

Deborah Ory: Ken is very OCD, I am as well and so are the dancers, it was a perfect match. We had a bunch of perfectionists on set!

Ken Browar: It’s much more than collaboration. It is like working with the Olympic Gold Medalists of dance. The dancers really put in a lot of time and energy into the photo sessions unlike actors, where they are only on set for a limited amount of time. We became friends with these people and felt inspired collaborating with  other artists. It was a learning experience for me because dance and fashion are really different; the dancers are looking at their lines. How their face looks is less important to them.


NYC Dance Project – ballet dancer Alvin Ailey dancers – Michael Jackson Jr, Daniel Harder and Sean Carmon – Photography by Ken Browar & Deborah Ory
NYC Dance Project – ballet dancer principal dancer Daniil Skim- Photography by Ken Browar & Deborah Ory

The first photo you took was with Daniil Simkin, the principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. Why did you choose a male and especially him to start the project?

Ken Browar: We contacted Daniil Simkin, as he is one of the best performers in New York. I had worked with many celebrities, including like Natalie Portman and Meryl Streep. Daniil liked the photos and was open to working with us. After the photo shoot, he asked us who else we would like to photograph in his company (American Ballet Theatre). As we work from home, it is very easy for us to have a last minute photo shoot. We keep our lighting and backgrounds set up. It’s our home-studio!


Dancers use their bodies to communicate feelings through movement. What kind of emotions did you want to capture?

Deborah Ory: Every picture is a bit different with what emotions we try to capture. We want to capture the expression of the dancer as well as some essence of who they are.

Ken Browar: The photos are a true collaboration with the dancers.  We treat them as celebrities rather than models, focusing on capturing some of the personality and what is special about them.  We begin the day with a cappuccino and get to know them a bit before we start working.  It is usually just Deborah and I, although occasionally we also have a hair and makeup artist on our set.  As it’s such a small crew, it’s very intimate and we break down the barriers to get some real expression from them.

NYC Dance Project – ballet dancer Charlotte Landreau – Photography by Ken Browar & Deborah Ory
NYC Dance Project – ballet dancer Miriam Miller – Photography by Ken Browar & Deborah Ory

Do you have an unusual story that happened during a photo shoot?

Deborah Ory: One of the dancers moved in with us for almost 2 weeks while he waited to move into a new apartment in the neighborhood.  Sometimes our cats show up in the photos. One time, our youngest daughter – who was 10 at the time – came running out while we were doing a photo shoot, wearing a tutu.  She was supposed to be home sick and she ended up doing a partnering photo with a Soloist from American Ballet Theatre.


A reviewer said about your book “it makes your eyes and soul happy”. What is happiness according to you?


“Happiness is to do something I love with someone I love”


Ken Browar: It is to find a partner with whom you love and can collaborate with creatively.  That is really rare.  Deborah and I have been able to work together, make these images and have come part of a community that we we love.  We feel very privileged to have had this experience.

Deborah Ory: Happiness is to do something I love with someone I love. Working as a couple can be hard sometimes but it’s also very rewarding.

What is next for NYC Dance Project?

Ken Browar: We are working on a second book.  We have had a lot of support from our publisher and are hoping to have the next book ready for 2019.   Once you make one book, you want to make another, it is very satisfying and addictive!  We are printing the photos quite large and are doing exhibitions and gallery shows.  We did an exhibition at Lincoln Center in NYC and also had a show in Palm Beach, Florida at the Holden Luntz Gallery.

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