How A Group Of Ballet Dancers Help Stray Dogs Get Adopted

Photographers Kelly Pratt and Ian Kreidich take beautiful photos of dancers from Saint Louis Ballet posing with stray dogs to help the canines find loving homes each year. 

When ballet dancers and stray dogs band together, it’s sure to be a fun and enchanting ride. It’s an unusual combination, to say the least. Dogs who’ve lived challenging lives, without a home for so long, join forces with professional ballet dancers in all their graceful glory. Yet it works, as the photography project “Dancers & Dogs” proves. 

Dancers of Saint Louis Ballet pose with animals from Stray Rescue Saint Louis
Dancers of Saint Louis Ballet pose with animals from Stray Rescue Saint Louis/Photo by Kelly Pratt and Ian Kreidich via Instagram @dancersanddogs

Each year, performers from Saint Louis Ballet pose for vibrant pictures alongside shelter dogs from Stray Rescue of Saint Louis as commercial photographers Kelly Pratt and Ian Kreidich snap away on their cameras. 

READ ALSO: Tiptoes Of Hope: A Busking Ballerina’s Story Of Resilience 

Half A Decade of Dancers and Dogs

What started out as a “wildly random idea” in 2017, wrote the photographers on the “Dancers & Dogs” official website, turned out to be a viral sensation that captured the hearts of internet users and animal lovers worldwide. In fact, when their first recap video came out, it gained more than 41 million views, as per Lara Hamdan of NPR

Saint Louis Ballet dancer Charlie Cronenwett with Rabbitt the mixed breed
Saint Louis Ballet dancer Charlie Cronenwett with Rabbitt the mixed breed/Photo by Kelly Pratt and Ian Kreidich via Instagram @dancersanddogs

The “Muttcracker” photo series with Saint Louis Ballet has been running for 6 years, and their latest edition took place last December 2023. According to popular canine platform WeRateDogs’ official Youtube channel, the project usually features 20 different dogs—and each year, every single canine has found a loving home thanks to the initiative. Though the dogs are certainly highlights of the project, other strays like cats and kittens have also been featured in photographs, reports Kelli Bender of People

Ever Larson from Colorado Ballet with Griffin, a German shorthaired pointer
Ever Larson from Colorado Ballet with Griffin, a German shorthaired pointer/Photo by Kelly Pratt and Ian Kreidich via Instagram @dancersanddogs

Whimsical Pairings

Photos in the Dancers & Dogs “Muttcracker” series with Saint Louis Ballet feature dancers posing alongside shelter pets with simple bright backgrounds and lighting—visual elements that give the series its fun, whimsical appearance. Every year, the photos take on a Nutcracker theme, hence the witty title, with dancers donning their best costumes.

This is the intended effect, as the Pratt + Kreidich team wanted to shed the serious and intimidating image of ballet dancers, showing their more fun-loving side behind the stage. Likewise, through their heartwarming interactions with the shelter animals, the dancers show how lovely the fur babies are despite all the hardships they’ve experienced. 

Bringing Smiles And Raising Awareness

Throughout their time photographing the subjects, the Pratt and Kreidich have worked alongside some of the “best dancers and dog trainers” in the U.S., they write on their website. The result is an intimate photo series that breaks down stereotypes, all while promoting the arts and animal welfare. 

Michael Burke and Rebecca Cornett as the Cavalier and Sugar Plum Fairy, respectively, with shelter dog Mimzy
Michael Burke and Rebecca Cornett as the Cavalier and Sugar Plum Fairy, respectively, with shelter dog Mimzy/Photo by Kelly Pratt and Ian Kreidich via Instagram @dancersanddogs

Even if one doesn’t have the means or resources to adopt the adorable animals, the photos still raise awareness on the significance of adoption. The public can also purchase items like calendars and a photo book featuring the “Dancer & Dogs” photos of the year as keepsakes. 

“It’s special to know that our work might bring more attention to dogs and cats that deserve a second chance at a happy and comfortable life. And if we can bring a smile to people’s faces at the same time, all the better!” Pratt and Kreidich expressed in a statement, as per Kelli Bender of People

Banner photos by Kelly Pratt and Ian Kreidich via Instagram @dancersanddogs.

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