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Ballet & Dance Costume Exhibit at FIT Museum, Free Admission


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Dance & Fashion Exhibit

FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology)

Seventh Avenue at 27 Street

New York City 10001-5992

Dance & Fashion

Special Exhibitions Gallery

September 13, 2014 January 3, 2015

MFIT's upcoming exhibition Dance &; Fashion is a stunning exploration of the relationship between these two embodied art forms. Organized by the museums director, Dr. Valerie Steele, and set in a dramatic mise-en-scène created by architect Kim Ackert, Dance & Fashion features nearly 100 dance costumes and dance-inspired fashions, ranging from the 19th century to the present, many of which have never been exhibited.

Dance & Fashion opens with a superb display of ballet costumes and related fashions from the 1830s and 1840s, the era of the Romantic ballet. A rare Spanish-style costume worn by the great ballerina, Fanny Elssler, is accompanied by fashions of the period. A costume by Christian Bérard for Symphonie Fantastique, along with a costume by Mme Karinska for Ballet Imperial, demonstrates the evolution of classic ballet costume, while a costume from Creole Giselle for the Dance Theater of Harlem evokes the continuing appeal of the Romantic ballet.

Christian Diors Black Swan ball gown epitomizes ballets influence on fashion design. Conversely, Marc Happel, costume director of New York City Ballet, has said that his costumes for Symphony in C were inspired by fashions designed by Dior and Balenciaga. The pointe shoes of famous dancers such as Anna Pavlova and Margot Fonteyn are juxtaposed with high-fashion styles by Christian Louboutin and Noritaka Tatehana that were inspired by ballet shoes.

The Orientalism of the Ballets Russes (1909-29) has also influenced generations of fashion designers, from Paul Poiret to Yves Saint Laurent. A costume from Schéhérazade, 1910, designed by the artist Léon Bakst and recently acquired by The Museum at FIT, is the centerpiece in a display of extraordinary fashions and costumes, including a couture ensemble from Yves Saint Laurents 1976 Ballets Russes collection and an ensemble by Ungaro worn by Princess Caroline of Monaco. There are also costumes worn by dancers such as Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Among the fashion designers who have created costumes for the ballet are Yves Saint Laurent and Riccardo Tischi of Givenchy (for the Paris Opera Ballet), Christian Lacroix, and Jean Paul Gaultier, plus Valantino Garavani, Prabal Gurung, Giles Mendel, Olivier Theyskens, Rodarte, and Iris Van Herpen, all of whom have created costumes for New York City Ballet.

For the modern dance section, the Martha Graham Dance Company has loaned noteworthy dresses, some designed and worn by Graham herself, and others the product of a close collaboration between Halston and Graham. Once adamantly opposed to ballet, modern dance choreographers have increasingly incorporated elements from ballet and other dance genres, resulting in new forms of modern and post-modern dance. Dance & Fashion includes several important African-Caribbean-inspired costumes from Katherine Dunham, a costume from José Limons Moors Pavane, and one from Alvin Aileys Revelations. Fashion designers featured who have created costumes for modern dance include Narciso Rodriguez for Morphoses, Francisco Costa for Elisa Monte, and Tara Subkoff for Stephen Petronio, among others. A highlight is a costume from Merce Cunninghams Scenario designed by Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, juxtaposed with a CDG bump dress, which inspired the dance costume.

In addition to ballet and modern dance, there is a flamenco dress and a selection of flamenco-inspired dresses by designers such as Cristobal Balenciaga, Elsa Schiaparelli, Jeanne Paquin, Oscar de la Renta, and Ralph Lauren. Recently, Rick Owens was so inspired by African-American step dancers that they performed at his runway show in Paris. Examples of his designs are also included.

Also on view is art work by David Michelek featuring ballerina Wendy Whelan, and a series of 13 photographs and a video by acclaimed dance and fashion photographer Anne Deniau, also known as Ann Ray, in collaboration with performers from the Paris Opera Ballet. In addition, there are selected dance videos, as well as videotaped interviews with Marc Happel, costume director of the New York City Ballet, and others.

A multi-author book, to be published by Yale University Press, will accompany the exhibition. A two-day symposium on October 23-24, 2014, that will be free and open to the public, will further explore dance and fashion. There will also be a series of free lectures, workshops, and tours as part of the museums Fashion Culture program.

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the attached snapshots, one of a displayed item and another of the accompanying label's credits, were taken last night at the opening of DANCE & FASHION.

the dim lighting throughout the gallery, necessitated by the fragile condition of fabric items, made getting details and color in a snapshot tricky, so this view of the boxed presentation of one of Lifar's golden slippers from his appearances as Balanchine's APOLLON in 1928 isn't precisely accurate to the item itself, which is in the collection of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the NYPL for the Performing Arts and which i don't recall being on display previously.

understandably, the gilded leather and satin ribbons have oxidized as well as aged in the past 80+ years making for an item darker still than this slightly enhanced photo suggests.



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I went to this today and what a (free) treat! As rg mentioned, there's some very dim lighting, which is understandable but a little frustrating. Not easy to see the darning on Pavlova's shoes without a lot of squinting (and getting down on all fours: yes I did). The film with Marc Happel is wonderful and there's a performance snippet right before the exhibit that shows clips of Josephine Baker, Graham, Sara Mearns and many others. Highly recommend seeing this.

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Just went to see this exhibit and was floored! It is free and up only a few more weeks... Get to it before the year ends!!!

The Elssler items!! And I had no idea the Garaham dresses were so beautiful... And the unusual darning on Pavlova's slippers... And how on earth did Fonteyn balance so beautifully on those rounded tips? So much to see! Karinska's work up close... Do not miss this one!

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There's no way I'm going to be able to get there, and I imagine several other people on this board are in a similar position -- can you give us a little more information? What was unusual about the darning on Pavlova's shoes? And what did they have of Elssler's? And which Karinska works did you see? ?????

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The darning on Pavlova's shoes used a thick thread stitched in complete straight lines (and longer lines than I would have thought) on the ends of the toes, around the sides about an inch or inch and a half, and underneath the toe. The stitching was meticulously done (that couldn't have been easy). It was so dark and the glass box they were in was positioned so close to the floor it was hard to tell just how far the darning went underneath the toe.

If I remember right, they had the Karinska costumes from Jewels (Diamonds, Emeralds, Rubies) and from La Valse. I know there were others but I can't remember which ones right now.

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There was a gorgeous Ballet Imperial tutu, with the lace exagerated so that it could be seen as such from the audience. They had a dress Elssler danced her Cachucha in as well as a pair of her green slippers. Such tiny narrow feet they had back then, the metatarsal arch surely was more arched than most girls today have. The jewels costumes glimmered & glitzed beautifully. Rubies was missing the tutu... Was what they use now originally over a tutu?

There was a willi costume from the Franklin DTH Creole Giselle...

No photos, so my memory, so rapidly fading, must serve...

There was a Nureyev coatume & a Baryshnikov costume... Some of NYCB's recent fashion forays...

The Graham costumes were more crafted than I realized from their photos.

Remarkably, there was was an uncredited designer costume from the White Oak Project (I wonder what happened?)

Lynn Garafola & Robert Greskovic's words were on the inscriptions...

There was a ballet inspired ballgown from the 1860s (might not have the year right there) with tulle gathered over satin).

It was stunning.

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It's a shame they didn't get some of the Denishawn costumes... For a while they were in the keeping of UCLA's dance program, but there was a dispute about the way the costumes were being cared for and perhaps they are no longer there... I wish I remembered the details. I don't know who guards the Denishawn legacy these days... Are there any Denishawn dancers still with us?

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Golly, I'm ashamed to say I don't know where they all are. For years, Jane Sherman was holding up that part of the legacy, but she died in 2010. I know that some of the stuff is at Jacob's Pillow, which is certainly appropriate, and that the Dance Collection at NYPL has a substantial collection, but don't know about the original papers. Let me ask around.

In the meantime, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro has a collection of "notation and choreography for performing dances of the Denishawn School". No idea what this actually contains, but it's certainly intriguing...

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