Thursday, May 5, 2011

costume and the avant-garde ballet

I haven't been to the ballet in a while, but I think it's high time that I start going.

The newest over here is Boston Ballet's Bella Figura, which I hear is causing a sort of commotion due to its scenes of partial nudity.  It's a fascinating subject - the way costume works in modern ballet.

Perhaps it's just that I'm not particularly familiar with the newest artsy performances out there - it's not like I have time to see every production (or in that case, ANY production) put on the Boston Lyric Opera, the Boston Ballet, or hey, (just for kicks), the Cirque du Soleil.  And this is only Boston we're talking about.  A small city.  But in any case, it seems as if the most exciting aesthetic, modern advances come from ballet.

Marie Taglioni's shortening of her skirt in her 1832 performance of La Sylphide - to show off her pointe work - was considered highly scandalous at the time; Stravinsky's primordial (and thoroughly modern) Rite of Spring shocked audiences in 1913.  Can I go as far as to say that ballet is in this unique position at the front of artistic development?  Of course, other performing arts categories should not be forgotten.  Let's not forget Ted Machover's opera of the futureDeath and the Powers.  But ballet, after all, incorporates music along with a celebration of the beauty of the human form.  I imagine that modern costumes for ballet would be an incredible challenge for designers.  Fashion design must be beautiful, but ballet design must take into account the way the material works with every movement of the body.  Fashionistas may argue that this happens in fashion design, but modern ballet costume design takes this concept of body and fabric moving together to a while new level.

Of course, the ballet costume follows a certain pattern, and the classical tutu will always exist.  But there will also always be departures from this formula - and the departures are especially striking.  Should these new costumes even be called costume?  Certainly the word "costume" demeans one of the purest of art forms to a masquerade - something that is not real, something that peels off to reveal an interior less beautiful.  I'm pretty sure that the ballet costume is no less than a second skin to the dancer.

I think I'll start investigating these newer forms of ballet costumes (when I find time away from studying...finals are coming up in a few weeks).  Today's photo is from said performance of Boston Ballet's Bella Figura.

Altan Dugaraa, Sarah Wroth, and Yury Yanowsky by Gene Schiavone

No comments:

Post a Comment