The National Gallery of Victoria’s new exhibition, Ballet & Fashion, showcases some of the loveliest, most excessive and bizarre collaborations between dance and design you’ll ever see. Teaming up with the Australian Ballet, the fashion curators at NGV have put together a show of more than 20 works made by major fashion labels for top international dance companies, most of which have never been exhibited in Australia before.
There are creations by well-known Australian labels like Collette Dinnigan, Akira Isogawa and Toni Maticevski; international fashion trailblazers such as Comme des Garçons and Viktor&Rolf; and household names like Christian Lacroix and Valentino. “In the past two decades there’s been an explosion of collaborations between dance companies and fashion designers,” explains the NGV’s Curator of International Fashion, Roger Leong. “It’s very, well, fashionable.”
Designers with strong signatures, explains Leong, can have a big impact on a dance work. “That’s one of the main reasons why ballet companies go to designers. They want to create a more contemporary feel, a bolder line.” And in return, the designers get free rein (almost) to make works of art that will be brought to life in swirling splendour on stage. Models might walk a runway with flair, but they can’t pirouette or dance en-pointe.
But even if you were lucky enough to be in the audience when the costumes made their onstage debuts, it’s unlikely you were able to fully appreciate the level of craftsmanship that’s gone into them. Describing each of the costumes, Leong descends into long lists of dreamy design details that are only really visible when you get up close: “Vintage French lace, braids, beading, ribbon. They’re just such great costumes, such beautiful objects. You don’t have to be a fashionista or a ballet aficionado to appreciate them.”
COLLETTE DINNIGAN, Sydney (fashion house) est. 1990 Tutu, 2003, choreographed by Adrian Burnett, The Australian Ballet, 26 July 2003, Sydney Opera House.