When Elle Decor approached Ezra Hurwitz to create a campaign with Tiffany & Co., the former Miami City Ballet dancer-turned-filmmaker knew just who he wanted to feature: the dancers of New York City Ballet.
Elle Decor was looking to develop organic sponsored content featuring the famous jewelry brand, and gave Hurwitz a huge amount of creative freedom in building a concept. "Tiffany & Co. had initially suggested something about featuring a modern family and highlighting unusual or progressive family units, and how that looks in their domestic spaces," says Hurwitz. "Having been a professional dancer, I felt that a company is very much like a family." Hurwitz decided to develop that idea on two levels: an imagined dream house in which dancers from NYCB all lived together, and individual family units that have developed within the company. His finished video, seen below, features nine current and former NYCB dancers, among them Troy Schumacher and his then-nine-months-pregnant wife Ashley Laracey (they welcomed their twin babies into the world last week), sisters and corps de ballet dancers Olivia MacKinnon and Mary Thomas MacKinnon, principal dancer Maria Kowroski and her four-year-old son Dylan, and former soloist and current ballet master Craig Hall and his husband, NYCB yoga teacher Frank Wildermann.
The film is accompanied by three stories published on the Elle Decor website on Kowroski, Schumacher and Laracey, and Hall and Wildermann, featuring stills from Hurwitz's shoot. "The whole thing was about this domestic intimacy, and I wanted the dancers to be more than pretty faces," he says. "I was really happy that we could expand upon the visual story with these articles."
"Jovani Furlan just joined NYCB from MCB this fall," says Hurwitz. "It was fun to play with having Jovani be the outsider, coming into this house and interacting with them." (courtesy Hurwitz)
Filming took place over one day in Elle Decor's Manhattan apartment showroom, which came with its own set of challenges. "Shooting in lived spaces can be tricky, because you don't only need space for the talent, but twice as much space for the equipment," says Hurwitz. There was also the task of making all of the dancers—including the very pregnant Laracey and injured Jenelle Manzi—comfortable. Hurwitz brought Sara Mearns into the mix with the idea of shooting her in a bathtub while wearing diamonds. But he didn't realize that the showroom didn't have hot water. "She full on submerged into a cold plunge pool," he says. "She was totally game, so kudos to her." Hurwitz's partner, NYCB principal Gonzalo Garcia, was on set to wrangle Kowroski's young son; the jewelry also came with its own babysitters. "There was security on set from Tiffany & Co. for the four plus million dollars worth of diamonds that we had," says Hurwitz.
"Jenelle Manzi, who I grew up with at School of American Ballet, is about to launch her own food start-up called Get Golden," says Hurwitz. "For readers and viewers I think subtle references like that add texture and intrigue." (courtesy Hurwitz)
Nevertheless, Hurwitz was able to bring his dream to fruition. "The concept was a play on glamour and fashion but in a domestic space, with lots of quirky colors," he says. "I definitely wanted it to be less than realistic. Not dancers in their homes in their pajamas, but a fantasy of how we imagine them." That goal is more than evident in the images of the MacKinnon sisters sitting on a couch, dripping in jewels while sewing their pointe shoes, and Kowroski playing with her son in a red Valentino gown. To that end, Hurwitz titled the campaign Ballet Flat. "It's just a fun play on words," he says. "It was my fantasy of what a house of dance might look like."