Stories

Painted Faces of The Vienna Festival Ballet

“My parents were both professional ballet dancers and have been running the company since the early eighties.” Photographer Benjamin Mallek captures the self-painted dancers of his family’s company: The Vienna Festival Ballet.

Photography and Words
BENJAMIN MALLEK

My dad had this amazing career as a dancer, dancing alongside people like Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn. I grew up around ballet all my life. As a child I would spend a lot of time in London dance studios, travelling on tour buses, or being backstage in theatres and dressing rooms. I’ve always admired ballet dancers and somewhat looked up to them.

I recently went on a tour with Vienna Festival Ballet across the UK and took these images. As the company is run by my family I had backstage access and was able to photograph the dancers up close and candidly in their stage makeup and rehearsal wear. I was interested in photographing them wearing their stage makeup yet off stage, and in their own rehearsal clothes rather than in full costume. I think it makes an interesting contrast seeing classical stage makeup alongside contemporary dancewear.

The ballerinas all do their own stage makeup before the shows. Their makeup styles are based on their character’s traits as well as on their individual faces. Dancers will do research into their roles for this.