Valentino (left) and costume director Marc Happel working in the NYCB Costume Shop (Photos by Paul Kolnik)
The ballet and fashion worlds collide this month in NYC with a one-time-only gala
at Lincoln Center kicking off New York City Ballet’s fall season (which just happens to start one week after New York Fashion Week!). The gala is honoring legendary fashion designer Valentino Garavani, who will be transforming ballerinas into stunning fashionistas, creating costumes for four works—three by NYCB ballet master in chief Peter Martins and one by choreographer Christopher Wheeldon.
Valentino has been working tirelessly to create these exquisite costumes since April, with the help of NYCB costume director Marc Happel. No stranger to the world of fashion, Happel has worked with several prominent designers who’ve created costumes for the company over the past year, including Gilles Mendel, Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte, and Stella McCartney. And he’s mastered the art of successfully bridging the gap between the catwalk and the stage. “Designers usually deal with models on the runway, but when dancers are onstage with the audience at least 50 feet away, everything changes,” Happel says. “I advise them to pay attention to the details that are really going to stand out.” He also helps the designers manage their schedules, so the costumes are completed with enough time to actually rehearse in them. “I’ve been to fashion shows where people are sitting backstage at sewing machines an hour before the show,” Happel says. “I’ve had to explain to each of the designers that we just don’t work that way.”
While working with each well-known designer over the past year has been a unique experience for Happel, collaborating with Valentino has been the cherry on top of this fashion sundae. “I’m completely in awe of Valentino,” he says. “He’s a legend, and he’s one of the last great couture designers. His designs are sumptuous and extravagant, and his choices are spot on.”
Valentino’s designs hit the stage at NYCB’s 2012 Fall Gala at Lincoln Center on
A Year in Costumes
According to the NYCB Dancers Who Wore Them
Tyler Angle and Tiler Peck in Benjamin Millepied’s Two Hearts, with costumes by Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte
“The first day Kate and Laura Mulleavy came in, they were casually dressed and laid-back,” Tiler Peck says. “I said to another dancer, ‘I can’t believe they are so cool.’ They were very accommodating to what we needed. For my costume, they decided to lose the skirt at the end of the ballet, and just have a leotard. I loved it!”
Taylor Stanley and Claire Kretzschmar in Peter Martins’ Mes Oiseaux, with costumes by Gilles Mendel
“My mom, sister and I have always been interested in fashion, so hearing Gilles Mendel was making our costumes was a great surprise,” Claire Kretzschmar says. “He paid close attention to the littlest details, like the curves of the shapes on the bodice. My costume transformed me into a different, more sophisticated person.”
Sara Mearns and Robert Fairchild in Peter Martins’ Ocean’s Kingdom, with costumes by Stella McCartney
“The whole experience was surreal to me,” Sara Mearns says. “Since Stella McCartney didn’t know much about ballet, we started by showing her how fabrics move when you dance. The process of getting from there to the final costumes was difficult, but when it all came together, it really worked.”
New York City Ballet has been on a serious fashion kick recently. First there were Gilles Mendel's costumes for Melissa Barak's Call Me Ben a couple of years ago. Then there were Stella McCartney's designs for Ocean's Kingdom, with music and story by her dad Sir Paul. Most recently, there were the Rodarte and Mendel costumes at the company's spring gala.
In September, you can add Valentino Garavani to that impressive list. The Italian designer is making costumes for three ballets to be performed at the company's fall gala, September 20.
What will they look like? Well, Valentino created costumes for Vienna's 2010 New Year's Concert, featuring Paris Opéra Ballet étoiles Eleonora Abbagnato and Nicolas Le Riche as well as dancers from the Vienna State Opera, which might give us a sense of his ballet style. Here's a video of Abbagnato and Le Riche performing at the concert, dressed in Valentino's signature red:
And here are the Vienna State Opera dancers, in rosette-trimmed pinks and greys:
What do you think? Can't wait to see what he comes up with for NYCB!
For most New Yorkers, the arrival of spring means long afternoons in Central Park, deciding to walk to the subway stop that's a few blocks farther away, eating brunch alfresco.
But for some lucky bunheads, spring means something else entirely: It's ballet gala season!
For a few glorious weeks in April and May, dance editors clutch their much-coveted single tickets and enter glamorous alternative universes: the Youth America Grand Prix gala, the New York City Ballet gala, the American Ballet Theatre gala. Yes, these glitzy events are opportunities to rub elbows with the sparkly people—ballet celebrities and celebrity celebrities both—and that's kind of fun. But they also feature a ridiculously high concentration of exciting ballet dancers onstage. How often do you get to see Ekaterina Kondaurova, Herman Cornejo, Misty Copeland, Tamara Rojo and Sergei Polunin on a single program (the YAGP gala)? How about an evening featuring nearly the entire NYCB roster, costumed by the likes of Rodarte and Gilles Mendel (last week's NYCB gala)?
Tonight is the ABT gala, and its lineup looks fantastic: nearly all the company's principals plus the likes of Polina Semionova, Diana Vishneva, Alina Cojocaru, Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev. I get a little shiver of happiness just listing all those names in the same sentence.
And though us editors don't even try to compete with the fancy people who'll make the best-dressed list, we still have a little fun with our outfits, too. After all, it's not every day that I have the opportunity to wear a floor-length pink silk skirt. Thank you, gala season!
Fashion and ballet have always played well together. On the heels of the announcement that Rodarte and Gilles Mendel will design costumes for New York City Ballet's spring gala comes this news: Christian Lacroix's costumes for Paris Opéra Ballet's La Source (which premiered last fall) will have their own exhibit at The National Costume Museum in Moulins, France. The show, featuring a "scene-by-scene look" at Lacroix's work for the ballet, will run from June 16 until December 31.
For those of us who can't make it to France, here's a slideshow of some of Lacroix's gorgeous creations. Enjoy!
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