Jill Krementz Photo Journal - Darci Kistler

Darci Kistler in a rehearsal studio at NYCB, flanked by dancers Christopher d'Amboise, and Chris's father, Jacques d'Amboise. This was the first time I photographed Darci. I was working on a story for People magazine which was about the young Chris d'Amboise. My caption sheet in my archive says: "You should definitely use a picture of Darci Kistler ... that is if you don't do a separate story on her. She is the hottest dancer now with NYCB and Balanchine is choreographing separate ballets for her. She opened the Washington season dancing lead in Swan Lake. She's only 16."
Darci Kistler to take final curtain call for
The New York City Ballet, Sunday, June 27th
David H. Koch Theater


Darci Kistler began dancing at The School of American Ballet when she was 16. She would soon become one of George Balanchine's protégés and two years later, in 1982, when he promoted her to principal, she became the youngest principal dancer in the company.

Kistler grew up in Riverside, California and after watching a performance of The Sleeping Beauty featuring Dame Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev, the five- year-old persuaded her mother to enroll her in ballet classes.

The rest, as they say, is what dreams are made of. She studied ballet after school and soon she headed to New York City where she auditioned for the School of American Ballet. She got one part after another. When Kistler was 28 she eloped with the handsome Danish-born Peter Martins, then 45, who was a principal dancer of the company. Mr. Martins is now its Artistic Director.

On Sunday afternoon, Darci Kistler will dance her final performance at NYCB, bringing her coltish energy and graceful presence to Monumentum pro Gesualdo and Movements for Piano and Orchestra – two of Mr. B's modern classics.

When the final curtain comes down, it will fall on a stage strewn with well-deserved bouquets and flowers.
Rehearsing with Christopher d'Amboise.
Chris removes her slipper and then demonstrates the type of foot massage he is about to give to her.
People took my suggestion and in December I was assigned to shoot a story on Darci Kistler for the magazine. In this photograph you see her in class with Peter Martins.

The story was held and finally appeared, eleven months later, in the November 23, 1981 issue. I was very disappointed with the final layout but as the great Walker Evans told me: magazine editors treat photographers like errand boys.
Now, three decades later, it is a pleasure to publish the photographs I took of Darci Kistler back in 1980 and to wish her a fond farewell. What a treat it's been to watch her dance these many years.
Martins smoked even while dancing in the early days at NYCB.
Kistler rehearsing with Sean Lavery. "It's like dancing with the cutest cheerleader in high school," said Lavery, a frequent partner.
Rehearsing with Sean Lavery while Rosemary Dunleavy looks on.
Darci Kistler struggling to put on false eyelashes on opening night in Boston, October 28, 1981.
Darci in class at NYCB studying with her teacher Antonia Tumkovski, known as "Tumi."
Jacques d'Amboise behind Darci.
At the end of a long day, an exhausted Kistler
soaks her feet in the bathroom of her apartment.
Sewing straps on her toe shoes – another nightly ritual.
Clowning around in her loft bed with her toe pillows.
A visit to a local ice cream parlor on the Upper West Side. "I dance because it is fun," Kistler told People. "For me it's like licking a scoop of butterscotch praline ice cream."
Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz; all rights reserved.