National Ballet of Canada goes Hoax Couture

This summer, I was lucky enough to be in Washington D.C. during the National Gallery of Art's exhibit "Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929: When Art Danced with Music." It was a glorious feast of Stravinsky, Nijinski...all the skis! But I have to admit, I was quite shocked when I saw another familiar name in the exhibit: Coco Chanel, who designed the costumes for Nijinski's Le Train Bleu back in 1924.

Costumes designed by Coco Chanel for Le Train Bleu in 1924 (© Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

I guess I never really realized that big time fashion designers ever collaborated with choreographers. I mean...it makes sense. I've watched enough "Project Runway" to know that how the clothes move is super important. So why not put high fashion on ballerinas, the best movers out there?

But since joining the DS family in September, I've learned a lot about dance. (And here I was thinking I was already an expert...) For instance, I've learned that New York City Ballet has collaborated with Gilles Mendel, Stella McCartney, Rodarte and Mendel, Valentino Garavani, Joseph Altuzarra and most recently, Prabal Gurung, Iris Van Herpen and Olivier Theyskens. NYCB ballerinas, I am the most jealous.

Valentino (left) and costume director Marc Happel working in the NYCB Costume Shop (Photos by Paul Kolnik)

And now, the National Ballet of Canada is following suit (pun intended), working with Canadian designers Jim Searle and Chris Tyrell of Hoax Couture for their Innovation programme, which runs November 22-28.

Turns out, fashion-dance collaborations aren't as simple as throwing couture on a dancer. The designers have to consider the choreographer's vision, the dancers' priorities and sheer practicality, in addition to their own design aesthetic. In this case, the two designers began by sitting down with choreographer and former director James Kudelka to listen to the music and brainstorm ideas. When Kudelka mentioned one word that inspired them--"fluttery"--Searle and Tyrell ran with it.

In case you can't pop over to Canada this week, here's a preview of the resulting design:

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