Sunday, September 21, 2014

Dance & Fashion the Night Away

Jean is the one with the dance background, so it was a little odd for me to go of to the opening of FIT's current exhibition, Dance & Fashion, without the resident expert, who was in Vegas for a family wedding.  But it wasn't hard to have a great time, learn a lot, and have an evening of visual delights.  Dance & Fashion demonstrates the numerous interconnections between the two.

Fortunately for me, Chloe Pang, a woman of many talents, including making hats, took the above photo on her camera because I (say it all together, everyone) forgot to take a picture of myself.   Here is a self-styled photo of Chloe at the opening. This photo doesn't do her justice, so more about Chloe later.

But you really want to know about the costumes, so let's get right to it.

At the opening of the exhibition is something everyone will expect to see: a costume worn by a household name of the dance world, and here it is.

This was worn by Mikhail Baryshnikov for Swan Lake in 1988.  Everyone (including me) was probably expecting something to do with Nijinsky, Pavlova (they have her shoes) Nureyev, or Fonteyn.  Having made that concession, the show moves on to meatier fare.

I thought there would be some Leon Bakst drawings from the early 20th century, but they had better than that: two costumes (far left) designed by Bakst for the Ballet Russes' Scheherazade.   Next to that is a Paul Poiret costume in the same vein.  Poiret, according to the exhibition label, denied that he had been influenced by the Ballet Russes, but the liberating, blousy clothes, which became very popular, were the perfect antidote to the staid, restrictive clothing of the Victorian age.

Several decades later, Ungaro (below, left) and Christian Lacroix (center) as well as Yves Saint Laurent (not shown) drew inspiration from the Ballet Russes' designs, proof of their lasting appeal.

Another form of dance that had a great influence on fashion was flamenco.  Left, a highly flaired and ruffled polka dot flamenco dress; right, a much toned down evening dress that echoes flamenco characteristics by Balenciaga.

Schiaparelli also drew from flamenco.   In this dress, the designer exaggerated the flared hem and added a rainbow of colors that would be seen when the hem was lifted, for dramatic effect.

Stella McCartney draws on Punk and the current fashion for tattoos in this dance costume for the New York City Ballet.

We have to show you the cover photo for the exhibition.  No photo of ours could ever do justice to this costume.  Iris van Herpen made this for Benjamin Millepied's Neverwhere.  It's worn here by Lauren Lovett.  Be sure not to miss the shoes!

, 201This is about the time when you want labels to say something about the materials.  Are they huge sequins?  Are they flexible?  Were they laser cut?  Can we see a blueprint, please?  What are the shoes made of?  Who made them?  Are they custom made for Lauren's feet?  Van Herpen herself is a former dancer, so she would be in a good position to know the mechanics of a good costume.  Sooo much has been left unsaid here, but it's no wonder this was made the centerpiece of the exhibition.  We want to wear this, too.  Well, the over the knee version, anyway.Neverwhere

Dance and Fashion does a great job of showing the role of major designers in dance.  These costumes were made by Norma Kamali for Twyla Tharp.

Narciso Rodriguez made this black and cream costume for Stephen Petronio Company.  Jean says: Narciso did the costumes for  Locomotor, which premiered in April 2014 at Stephen's 30th Anniversary celebration at the Joyce Theater.  In keeping with Stephen's description of Locomotor as moving forward and backward in time, Narciso designed the unitards with triangular cutouts in the back to reveal what the New York Times called "the undulations of the spine".
, 2013

This bold confection in shimmering transparent horsehair and organza for a male dancer is the work of Ralph Rucci, made for Youth America Grand Prix.

When Rei Kawakubo did her famous "Bump" collection (below, right), conventional thinking would not place it in a dance performance, but Merce Cunningham did just that (below, left).  As explained in the label, "the costumes de-formed the dancers' bodies and hindered their movements, but through this tension revealed new aspects of the collaborators' work."

No exhibition of dance costumes would be complete without some examples from Martha Graham, for whom the clothing was an integral part of the performance.  This is a recreation of a costume in which Graham performed in 1930.  The stretch in the jersey accentuates the movements of the body.

This exotic and erotic costume was designed by Halston.

One of Graham's most dramatic costumes was this black dress with red overskirt, made for the dance Imperial Gesture.

At rest, it is already striking.  Below, Blakely White-McGuire demonstrates the power of the costume in motion.

Dance & Fashion, which opened on September 13th during Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, is open through January 3, 2015.

Now how about a look at the attendees at the opening night?

There were some who looked like dancers, such as this woman whose headdress evokes Swan Lake

And this woman in a flamenco-like dress

There were dancers - below is Stephen Petronio, center, his husband, Jean-Marc Flack at left, and Sarah Silver, his company photographer, at right.

Miki Orihara, right, a principal dancer of the Martha Graham Dance Company; Arielle, center, who designed Miki's outfit, as well as her own; and Dr. Valerie Steele, left, director and chief curator of The Museum at FIT, who organized the exhibition.

Judith Schwantes, FIT's press assistant, had a wonderful hairdo, and perfect red glasses to match.

Baroness, on the other hand, had fabulous pink hair and perfect green glasses to contrast.

Now, back to Chloe.  Here's a little video she did for Romer Millinery.  It's not strictly on topic, but this does her justice.  And she did the whole thing herself.

Valerie is wearing: vintage hat with no label; faceted wooden earrings by Monies; vintage Gaultier dress; canvas bag with Andy Warhol banana print from the Velvet Underground album cover by Uniqlo; so-called "rats" (hair shapers) as bracelets, from H&M.  Might or might not be wearing shoes.


  1. Your dress is nothing less than exquisite! As are the dance costumes in your post. Breathtaking!

  2. Love the "might or might not be wearing shoes" - ah well, we can't expect everyone to understand how we bloggers want to be photographed ;)

    I can't wait to see this exhibit - thanks for the preview!