Exhibit Showcases Famous Designers’ Dance Fashions

I arrived at Lincoln Center early, making my way past the plaza’s iconic fountain and heading for the revolving glass doors of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Tucked between NYC’s famous Metropolitan Opera House and Lincoln Center Theater, the library’s Oenslager Gallery is the new home of “On Stage in Fashion: Design for Theater, Opera, and Dance” until January 22. DS was invited to preview the exhibit before its official opening tonight, and I couldn’t wait to get a sneak peek.

 

Inside the library, the exhibit’s co-curators, Phyllis Magidson and Barbara Cohen-Stratyner, spoke briefly about the concept of the exhibit. They explained that before there were runways and supermodels, actors and dancers modeled top designers’ latest creations during performances. Intrigued, I entered the Oenslager Gallery to take a look at some of the costumes.

 

Arranged by era, the exhibit begins with costumes from the 1910s and '20s and progresses to elaborate outfits worn on NYC stages just months ago! I could have spent hours perusing the sketches, photographs and actual outfits worn by stage stars of decades past. They practically had to tear me away from a beautiful white wedding gown designed by Mainbocher for the original production of The Sound of Music. I learned that Mary Martin, who originated the role of Maria von Trapp in 1959, insisted that Mainbocher design the stunning dress as well as all of her other costumes for the show.

 

After ogling Mary Martin’s stage attire for far too long, I finally made it to the portion of the exhibit entirely devoted to dance. It was surreal to see the names of fashion’s elite alongside some of my favorite dance companies and choreographers. For example, I had no idea that Calvin Klein’s chic lines collided with Martha Graham’s modern moves when he designed ensembles for some of her late works. In addition to mannequin displays of original costumes by designers such as Marc Jacobs and Oscar de la Renta, the dance-focused portion of  “On Stage in Fashion” also includes countless photographs and sketches of dancewear couture of decades past.

 

I especially loved Christian La Croix’s playful design for a 1988 revival of Leonide Massine’s Gaîté Parisienne at American Ballet Theatre. Worn by the Glove Seller character, the striped black and pink bodice ends in a short, full skirt with the outline of long black gloves extending from the waist. An edgy hot-pink tutu designed by Isaac Mizrahi for Mark Morris’ 2001 piece Gong was another favorite, along with Joe Eula’s simple salmon-colored dress created in 1969 for Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering. I couldn’t help but fantasize about what it would be like to dance in such gorgeous garb.

 

While I may not have been able to try on the tutus and tunics myself, I could see how they looked on stage thanks to the television screens along the back wall of the gallery. The six screens show excerpts from some of the pieces for which the featured costumes were designed, danced by companies such as Parsons Dance and Dance Theater of Harlem. It amazed me how different—and even more glorious—the outfits appeared on moving bodies. Not wanting to miss anything, I spent a little bit of time watching each screen and became so entranced a security guard kindly approached me and asked me to leave so that he could lock the gallery!

 

Whether you’re a seasoned fashionista or a couture novice, “On Stage in Fashion” is definitely worth a visit. Catch the exhibit during regular library hours from October 14, 2010 until January 22, 2011 at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Latest Posts


Meet the dancers of MDC3: Madi Smith, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Mather (left to right). Photo by Joe Toreno. Hair by Marina Migliaccio and makeup by Lisa Chamberlain, both for the Rex Agency.

Meet MDC3: The "World of Dance" Winners Who Defied the Odds

In March 2020, the same day the "World of Dance" cast got word that production would be shutting down due to a global pandemic, MDC3 artists Madison (Madi) Smith, Diego Pasillas and Emma Mather stood shoulder to shoulder onstage, bracing to hear the final results of the competition. The champion title and $1 million prize money were within reach, decided entirely by the three celebrity judges sitting in front of them. As their competitor's scores dropped from the lips of Derek Hough, Jennifer Lopez and Ne-Yo at roughly 2 percentage points below their own, viewers watched realization dawn. MDC3's mouths dropped into gigantic Oh's before their hands slapped over their faces in disbelief. Sparklers shot up while confetti rained down, and the announcer shouted, "MDC3, you are the winner of 'World of Dance'!"

It was an impressive accomplishment for any group of dancers, let alone three teenagers who'd faced rejection from the show three times over. Despite their youth (Madi is 18, Diego is 17 and Emma is 16), this moment was hard earned through years of dedicated patience.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Mason Evans assisting at New York City Dance Alliance in Orlando, FL (Evolve Photo & Video, courtesy Mason Evans)

5 Dancers Share What It's Really Like to Return to Competitions Right Now

For the first time since the coronavirus hit the U.S., competitions and conventions are meeting in-person once again (brimming with safety precautions, of course), and dancers couldn't be more thrilled.

We asked five standout comp kids about their recent experiences attending competitions around the country—and how they're taking advantage of these long-lost opportunities.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Because the future of Black dance is happening right now (Braylon Browner photographed by Rhiannon Lee, courtesy Braylon Browner)

Celebrating Black Futures Month: 4 Up-and-Coming Black Dancers Making History Right Now

Throughout the month of February, many Americans celebrate Black History Month, a period of the year dedicated to honoring the contributions of Black figures to American culture and society.

The lesser-known Black Futures Month, which is also celebrated in February—and often in conjunction with BHM—looks to art and artists to envision an equitable future for Black Americans. At Dance Spirit, we're celebrating #BlackFuturesMonth by spotlighting four young Black dancers whose dance journeys are proving that the future of Black dance is bright.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search