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FIT for Dance & Fashion | Culture Lens

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For a thrilling and stylish look into the world of dance history, get your dancing shoes on and strut off to the Fashion Institute of Technology’s latest exhibition, Dance & Fashion. To the team behind it we say CONGRATULATIONS!  Dance & Fashion is possibly one of the best shows FIT has had in seasons. It is not only visually stimulating and diverse, its informative narrative captions help to open up a new world to those who are, perhaps, not so well-versed in artistic disciplines.

Center, Judith Jamison’s costume in Alvin Ailey’s 1971 dance Cry. Credit Linda Rosier for The New York Times

Center, Judith Jamison’s costume in Alvin Ailey’s 1971 dance Cry. Credit Linda Rosier for The New York Times

Noritaka Tatehana’s shoes for a 2011 Lady Gaga video and Salvatore Capezio’s 1930 Duro toeshoe.

Noritaka Tatehana’s shoes for a 2011 Lady Gaga video and Salvatore Capezio’s 1930 Duro toeshoe.

Costumes by Jean Paul Gaultier for Façade, un divertissement, choreography for eleven dancers by Régine Chopinot, La Coursive, La Rochelle, 1993. Photograph © Eric Richmond.

Costumes by Jean Paul Gaultier for Façade, un divertissement, choreography for eleven dancers by Régine Chopinot, La Coursive, La Rochelle, 1993. Photograph © Eric Richmond.

Comme des Garçons, pearlized patent leather and elastic ballet flats, spring 2005. Collection of The Museum at FIT. Photograph © The Museum at FIT.

Comme des Garçons, pearlized patent leather and elastic ballet flats, spring 2005. Collection of The Museum at FIT. Photograph © The Museum at FIT.

Not only are the captions beautifully written, they effortlessly guide the viewer in understanding the complexity of influences affecting ballet’s styles and costumes since the 19th century. Rare dancing garments are paired with iconic ballets, including a few couture and fashion designs influenced by dance itself (i.e., flamenco for one).

The Great Romantic Dancer Fannie Elssler's costume from one of her most famous roles in the ballet Le Diable Boiteux (1836).

The Great Romantic Dancer Fannie Elssler’s costume from one of her most famous roles in the ballet Le Diable Boiteux (1836).

Jean Paul Gaultier, man’s costume for Façade, un divertissement, 1993, lent by Maison Jean Paul Gaultier. Photograph © The Museum at FIT.

Jean Paul Gaultier, man’s costume for Façade, un divertissement, 1993, lent by Maison Jean Paul Gaultier. Photograph © The Museum at FIT.

Norma Kamali, man and woman’s costume for In the Upper Room, 1988, lent by American Ballet Theatre. Photograph © The Museum at FIT.

Norma Kamali, man and woman’s costume for In the Upper Room, 1988, lent by American Ballet Theatre. Photograph © The Museum at FIT.

Danskin, light purple knit leotard and navy jersey skirt, 1975-76, USA. The Museum at FIT 2003.61.2 & 3, photograph © The Museum at FIT.

Danskin, light purple knit leotard and navy jersey skirt, 1975-76, USA. The Museum at FIT 2003.61.2 & 3, photograph © The Museum at FIT.

For those who prefer fashion, the continuous love affair between fashion designers and the world of performance art is decrypted with surprising excitement and ease. Most might recall Yves Saint Laurent, Gianni Versace, Valentino and Christian Lacroix’s ballet and opera costumes. But it is pure fun to discover that unusual suspects like Narciso Rodriguez, Stella McCartney, Ralph Rucci or Iris van Herpen also created dance costumes.

Versace, man and woman’s costume for Herman Schmerman, 1992, lent by New York City Ballet. Photograph © The Museum at FIT.

Versace, man and woman’s costume for Herman Schmerman, 1992, lent by New York City Ballet. Photograph © The Museum at FIT.

Valentino, woman’s costume for Bal de Couture, Fall 2012, lent by New York City Ballet. Photograph © The Museum at FIT.

Valentino, woman’s costume for Bal de Couture, Fall 2012, lent by New York City Ballet. Photograph © The Museum at FIT.

Narciso Rodriguez, woman’s costume for Locomotor, 2014, lent by Stephen Petronio Company. Photograph © The Museum at FIT.

Narciso Rodriguez, woman’s costume for Locomotor, 2014, lent by Stephen Petronio Company. Photograph © The Museum at FIT.

Lauren Lovette in costume by Iris van Herpen, for Benjamin Millepied’s Neverwhere, 2013, New York City Ballet. Photograph by Erin Baiano.

Lauren Lovette in costume by Iris van Herpen, for Benjamin Millepied’s Neverwhere, 2013, New York City Ballet. Photograph by Erin Baiano.

Seriously, you don’t have to be a dance buff to appreciate this exhibition. Everything reads effortlessly, sliding from dance costumes by icons including Léon Bakst or Barbara Karinska to extraordinary creations by couture greats like Jeanne Paquin or Cristóbal Balenciaga, with a few surprises along the way such as Halston’s designs for Martha Graham.

Léon Bakst, young man’s costume from Schéhérazade, 1910, France. The Museum at FIT, 2014.1.1, photograph ©The Museum at FIT.

Léon Bakst, young man’s costume from Schéhérazade, 1910, France. The Museum at FIT, 2014.1.1, photograph ©The Museum at FIT.

Cristobal Balenciaga, dress, silk taffeta and cut velvet, 1950, France. The Museum at FIT, 86.142.5, photograph © The Museum at FIT.

Cristobal Balenciaga, dress, silk taffeta and cut velvet, 1950, France. The Museum at FIT, 86.142.5, photograph © The Museum at FIT.

Elsa Schiaparelli. Light blue evening gown with wired pintucks and interior colored ruffles at flared hem, mid-1930s, France. Beverley Birks Collection, photo © The Museum at FIT.

Elsa Schiaparelli. Light blue evening gown with wired pintucks and interior colored ruffles at flared hem, mid-1930s, France. Beverley Birks Collection, photo © The Museum at FIT.

Halston, woman’s costume for Tangled Night, 1986, lent by Martha Graham Dance Company. Photograph © The Museum at FIT.

Halston, woman’s costume for Tangled Night, 1986, lent by Martha Graham Dance Company. Photograph © The Museum at FIT.

In case you can’t make it to FIT in person, there is a companion catalog that will explain this wonderful exhibition. This reference tome is a must-have.

Rick Owens, ensemble, Spring 2014, lent by Rick Owens. Photograph © The Museum at FIT.

Rick Owens, ensemble, Spring 2014, lent by Rick Owens. Photograph © The Museum at FIT.

Serge de Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, 1916. Image courtesy of Fashion Institute of Technology | SUNY, Gladys Marcus Library Department of Special Collections.

Serge de Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, 1916. Image courtesy of Fashion Institute of Technology | SUNY, Gladys Marcus Library Department of Special Collections.

Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung, woman’s costume for Endlos from the Dancers Responding to AIDS benefit, 2013, lent by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung. Photograph © The Museum at FIT.

Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung, woman’s costume for Endlos from the Dancers Responding to AIDS benefit, 2013, lent by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung. Photograph © The Museum at FIT.

DANCE & FASHION

September 13, 2014 – January 3, 2015

Brittany Pollack and Taylor Stanley in Capricious Maneuvers, 2013. Choreography by Justin Peck, New York City Ballet. Costumes by Prabal Gurung. Photograph ©Paul Kolnik.

Brittany Pollack and Taylor Stanley in Capricious Maneuvers, 2013. Choreography by Justin Peck, New York City Ballet. Costumes by Prabal Gurung. Photograph ©Paul Kolnik.