Dance Fever: Roy Round’s Iconic Ballet Photography

I live in a very unusual loft building in New York. A former factory, it’s a 103 years old and many of the current residents, who include an artist, a jazz musician, a toy maker, and, until recently, a world-renowned photographer have been here for more than 30 years.  The photographer, our good friend Roy Round, has just moved back to his native London after three decades in his loft, which also served as his studio. I’m reposting this reminiscence of him from my own blog.

Dance photographer Roy Round with Dog

British fashion, celebrity, and  dance photographer Roy Round in the 1960s

Roy started his career during the World War II as an aerial reconnaissance photographer with the RAF in Egypt. After the war he returned to London as an apprentice photographer with Peter Clark Studios. He next joined a small studio and within a couple of years became an active fashion photographer, working on the Paris collections and traveling abroad frequently on assignment for top magazines. He also became accomplished at celebrity portraiture, photographing Anna Magnani, Paul Bowles, Cecil Beaton, Kim Novak, and Sean Connery, among many others.

Raquel Welch, 1967, photographed by Roy Round

Roy took this portrait of Raquel Welch in 1967, when she was in England filming Stanley Donen’s Bedazzled—a comic reworking of the Faust legend in which she famously played Lust.

One of the best parts of knowing Roy is that he has the most extraordinary stories about many of the greats of the 20th century. If a name like Judy Garland comes up in conversation he’ll say, “Did I ever tell you about the time we got drunk together at Sybil Burton’s nightclub?” Once in the 1960s, when he had been detained on a long photo session, his wife  asked, “Why are you so bloody late?” As you can imagine, his truthful reply, “I was having drinks with Raquel Welch,” did not go over well.

Roy’s wife was the English ballerina and ballet mistress, the late Georgina Parkinson, and it is through her and his extraordinary work first with London’s Royal Ballet and subsequently with American Ballet Theatre and the New York City Ballet, that Roy’s name will forever be linked to the world of dance.

Georgina Parkinson as the Empress Elisabeth in the premiere of Kenneth Macmillan's 1978 ballet Mayerling, photographed by Roy Round

British ballerina Georgina Parkinson as the Empress Elisabeth in the London premiere of Kenneth Macmillan’s 1978 ballet Mayerling, photographed by her husband Roy Round.

Roy and Georgina moved to New York in 1980 at the behest of Mikhail Baryshnikov, who installed Georgina as a ballet mistress at ABT.  (She had taught Baryshnikov and Leslie Brown a pas de deux from Romeo and Juliet for the 1977 movie The Turning Point.) That’s when they moved into my building. In their studio loft and other locations Roy photographed Baryshnikov, Natalia Makarova, Gelsey Kirkland, Julie Kent, Ethan Stiefel, Gillian Murphy, Marcello Gomes, and many other ballet greats.

Rudolph Nureyev photographed in London by Roy Round in the early 1960s

Rudolph Nureyev photographed by Roy Round in London in the early 1960s.

Lynn Seymour and Christopher Gable photographed by Roy Round in Kenneth Macmillan's Romeo and Juliet, 1965

The Royal Ballet’s Lynn Seymour and Christopher Gable photographed by Roy Round in Kenneth Macmillan’s Romeo and Juliet, 1965.

American Ballet Theatre dancers photographed in silhouette by Roy Round

American Ballet Theatre dancers photographed in silhouette by Roy Round.

Roy is the consummate dinner companion, and every time we get together I hear new stories’ like this one: At a state gala, Georgina was sitting next to some woman who asked her if she needed anything. “A glass of water would be wonderful, darling,” she answered, and the woman dutifully brought it to her. Later Georgina found out that her accommodating waitress was the former Queen of Greece.

Choreographer Jerome Robbins photographed by Roy in the 1950s leaning against a Saul Steinberg backdrop

Choreographer Jerome Robbins leaning against a Saul Steinberg backdrop, photographed by Roy in the late 1950s.

We’ll see Roy in London, but we  will miss the daily contact and we hope he learns to use email to continue to entertain us with his amusing stories. He currently has a terrific book out called Round About the Ballet published by Limelight Editions, which profiles dancers at both the New York City Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre. And he is working on a new book that will be a retrospective of his career and include all those terrific anecdotes.

Round About the Ballet, by Roy Round, Limelight  Editions