I rang the doorbell at photographer Nathan Sayers' studio a couple of weeks ago, and was surprised to hear the sharp yapping of a little dog. The door opened to reveal a little Yorkie (I think), and a laughing voice called "Henry! Come here!". Henry turned and trotted into the studio, making a beeline for Sterling Hyltin, a principal with New York City Ballet, who was having her trademark mermaid hair coiffed by hair and makeup artist Chuck Jensen.
Some dancers can appear sweet when they are in character onstage, but sometimes are quite the opposite offstage. Sterling, however, is just as funny and upbeat as she seems when performing the role of the Mad Ballerina in Jerome Robbins' The Concert, or as Juliet in the first part of Peter Martins' Romeo + Juliet. To me, one of the hallmarks of her dancing is an exuberant energy, reflected in her beaming smile and the charmingly coltish quality she sometimes displays. During our shoot, I was also struck by the way in which she could stretch her long lines just that much more, to push a pose over the edge of being just a static image, to endowing the picture with real movement. Her willowy frame and long arms and legs form a continuous line, and energy shoots from her fingertips.
But back to Henry, who, though adorable, reflected his mistress's bouncy personality by scampering around the studio constantly, always in and out of the frame. The soundtrack to the shoot ceased to be the indie music that played softly in the background, and became a chorus of voices constantly calling "Henry, Henry", to distract the pup from butting in on Sterling's solo camera time. However, when his time came to shine, Henry was nothing if not professional. He had a walk-on role in City Ballet's production of Alexey Miroshnichenko's The Lady With the Little Dog, which starred Sterling, and he reprised it briefly for the shoot. As she rose onto pointe in her costume for the ballet, Henry came, he sat, and he stayed, his attention focused on his owner, while the cameras flashed, and we applauded.