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Ballet’s collaboration with fashion

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  • by Lindsey Johnstone
 

The “ballet moment” that fashion, in its own parlance, has been having has stretched the parameters of momentary to become something of a pas de deux.

What started in summer 2010 with the build-up to Black Swan and those Rodarte-collaborated costumes, the ones which sent the fashion press into a frenzy comparable with that experienced by Natalie Portman as the film’s protagonist, continued apace with Hannah McGibbon’s Spring Summer 2011 collection for Chloé, replete with crossover tops and ballerina-length skirts in pleated chiffon and shades of ivory and rosy camel.

The latest runway incarnation saw designer Jayne Pierson take the trend to its literal conclusion, using dancers from The Royal Ballet in lieu of models for her Spring Summer 2012 show last month, citing the strength, grace and elongated muscles of the ballet body as the perfect showcase for her body-conscious collection.

And now Scottish Ballet dancer Daniel Davidson may well have his own fashion moment at Saturday’s Scottish Style Awards, having been nominated for Most Stylish Male alongside more predictable nominees Andy Murray and creative director of Harris Tweed Hebrides Mark Hogarth.

Scottish Ballet have been among the most savvy of dance companies to capitalise on fashion’s interest in the ballet world, courting increasingly-influential bloggers, most of whom would previously have been unlikely to post the breathlessly anticipatory countdowns and detailed costume analysis that are now requisite pre and post-performance blog entries, given that ballet had previously been an art form considered somewhat exclusive.

Of course the same could be said for fashion itself, which is now more accessible than ever before, thanks in large part to its huge online presence, from video streaming of shows to the Twitter accounts of designers, and, of course, those bloggers.

Davidson, 26, a choryphée in the company (a position between corps de ballet and soloist), is flattered to have been recognized for his sense of style, given that working in a fashion-related field is an option he is considering for when his short dancers’ career comes to an end.

He cites the role design plays in ballet productions as making them more accessible, saying: “Choreographers work with well known designers and artists, which has opened the doors to a whole new generation of ballet fans who have an interest in fashion and pop culture.” One example is Scottish Ballet’s 2007 piece Ride the Beast, set to Radiohead and with costumes by New York designer Benjamin Cho, who also dresses Lady Gaga and a legion of adoring downtown hipsters.

Davidson sees the relationship between ballet and fashion as a natural one, saying: “Each piece of dance has been created with a certain look and feel in mind and the use of costume and set design work together to translate the initial ideas on to the stage,” but adds that it is a relationship that is becoming increasingly prevalent in the press.

“I’ve noticed that ballet brands tend to pop up in glossy magazines. I’ve also noticed that advertisements promoting clothing brands are using movement. Models are dancing in designer clothing and I think the elegant movements attract people to the clothes. There is something so chic about ballet and people want to attain that.”

On the symbiosis of the relationship, and whether ballet is influenced by fashion in the same way it exerts influence, he is emphatic that it does: “Our director Ashley Page also often works very closely with the designer Antony McDonald. Antony is often inspired by designers such as John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood and takes his inspiration from the season’s catwalk in terms of colour, fabrics etc.

“He also looks at vintage fashion for our story ballets and has referenced some very famous pieces – there’s a nod to a historical Christian Dior dress in Cinderella’s ball gown, and this winter audiences can see his take on Dior’s New Look in the 1940s section of The Sleeping Beauty.”

Mary McGowne, founder of the Scottish Style Awards, says that while the creative industries in general are inextricably linked, with ballet enjoying a particular focus at the moment, the relationship between the two worlds is nothing new: “Going back a generation, the legendary Aberdeen-born Michael Clark, one of the most exciting ballet dancers I have ever seen, epitomises this music, fashion, dance fusion.

“His performances were electrifying – still are - and his ‘I Am Curious, Orange’ piece where The Fall supplied the soundtrack and Bodymap the clothing, was unprecedented. It challenged the parameters and notion of what constitutes ballet.”

She adds of the latest Scottish dancer to benefit from the connection: “In terms of Daniel, it is his technically assured on stage accomplishments as much as his immaculate and chic androgynous style that secured his nomination at this year’s Scottish Style Awards.”

 

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