National Museum of Dance Collection
National Museum of Dance Collection
National Museum of Dance Collection

Cris Alexander and Shaun O’Brien

Celebrated portrait photographer and actor Cris Alexander and venerable New York City Ballet (NYCB) dancer Shaun O’Brien first visited Saratoga Springs in 1966 during NYCB’s premiere summer season at Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC). They moved to Saratoga Springs permanently in 1991 after O’Brien’s retirement from ballet, and for twenty years were vital members of the arts community and great friends of the Museum. After a remarkable sixty-two years as a couple, they passed away in 2012 less than two weeks apart. Alexander was one of the most sought-after portraitists of his generation and captured countless luminaries from Truman Capote and Twiggy to Gloria Vanderbilt and Mother Teresa. He also photographed some of the most acclaimed dancers and choreographers of the time including Martha Graham, Jerome Robbins, and of course, O’Brien. These tremendously compelling images, which number in the hundreds, in part comprise the collection given to the Museum in 2015 by Ralph A. Crocker and Michael P. Whitten, and featured in the Art in the Foyer series that year. Highlights include iconic photographs of George Balanchine and a host of NYCB dancers in New York and on tour. Alexander also notably documented Rudolf Nureyev’s visit to the Museum in 1988 for a dinner in his honor, hosted by his close friends, Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney.