Portraits of Watson show brutal toll of ballet on body

The Royal Ballet’s top dancer has spoken of the brutality of the art form as a collection of portraits reveal the impact of a lifetime of performing on his body.

Edward Watson MBE has been principal dancer at the world famous classical ballet company based at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, West London, for a record 13 years.

The 42-year-old has had more roles created for him than any other dancer during his 30-year career with The Royal Ballet School and then The Royal Ballet Company.

A stark portfolio of 250 prints, captured by renowned international photographer Rick Guest, showcase both the beauty and brutality of ballet. One photo shows a bare-chested Watson crouched with his knees pulled to his chest, his battered and bruised feet, weathered by years of commitment to his art, pointed towards the camera.

In another, his muscular arm fills a single shot with his fingers delicately splayed upwards. A very faint scar grazes his upper arm – a painful reminder of the time he ruptured his bicep while lifting another dancer over his head.

Speaking at the National Portrait Gallery on Friday, Watson said: “The pictures are what I look like and I love them for that because of their honesty. “There’s beauty in things that look wrong. And I’m not very good at pretending – if I’m sad I will cry and if I’m angry I will shout.”

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