Capturing the Essence of Ballet Students

Andrea Selby sketching in the studio.

Boston Ballet School is committed to inclusivity and promoting dance education for a wide range of students of all abilities.

Original Sketch by Andrea Selby

Original Sketch by Andrea Selby

In an effort to capture the diversity and creativity of the student body, the leadership team sought to broaden its approach. 

“Representing the depth and breadth of the talented student body has been an enormous challenge over the years. And a challenge that I’ve often thought needed to go beyond photography, the typical media for capturing ballet dancers,” said Margaret Tracey, Director of Boston Ballet School.
Hoping to supplement their photo library and bring some fresh energy, Boston Ballet School enlisted the help of artist Andrea Selby. Known for her work with performers, Selby has drawn for The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Broadway show, An American in Paris. She is currently artist-in-residence and festival illustrator for the Vail Dance Festival.

Original Sketch by Andrea Selby

Original sketch by Andrea Selby

Art born of passion for movement

“I follow excitement and joy,” enthuses Selby. While she appreciates the value of photography, she sees her job as amplifying the emotion of whatever scene she is capturing. Inspired by motion, Selby grew up dancing and sketching. She first joined the School of American Ballet at age 8 and carried a sketchpad with her everywhere. Whenever she had a break, was recovering from an injury, or was watching a performance from the wings, she would sketch the dancers.
Selby credits her career as an artist to her dance teacher and mentor, Madame Alexandra Danilova, who used to discuss art with her and eventually encouraged her to pursue art as a career, specifically art that captures dance.
“Danilova sat with me and she said, “You know, we may need a new Degas. You know there isn’t anybody capturing dance, so why don’t you try that?” Since then, that’s what I’ve been trying to do,” said Selby.

Cultivating an inclusive student-centered atmosphere

The heart of Boston Ballet School’s mission is to inspire, nurture, and sustain the love of dance for all. Inclusivity and diversity are central to realizing that mission. Selby’s illustrations of Boston Ballet School students remove many physical identifiers, allowing viewers to see themselves in the art, and further promote the critical concept that dance is for everyone.

In this spirit, starting in September 2019, select Children’s Program classes will be taught according to an inclusion model, integrating students of all learning styles. Faculty and support staff for these classes have been trained in inclusive teaching practices and Universal Design for Learning strategies that allow students of varying abilities to succeed.

Dress codes have also been revised to allow students to self-select a tight, slipper, and pointe shoe color that best matches their natural skin tone or in which they feel most comfortable. While we pride ourselves on preserving the classical aesthetic of Ballet, we also recognize that there is room for expanded interpretation that will allow our students to better represent themselves. That representation will now be enhanced by the artwork of Andrea Selby.


The illusion we create is intended to deepen your understanding of reality.

Mikko Nissinen, Artistic Director