I dedicated a recent previous post to the art of the Ballets Russes.
Yet the famous artists who contributed to make the Russian corps de ballet famous all over the world aren’t the only set and costume designers that may provide interesting inspirations for fashion collections.
I would therefore like to dedicate this post to rediscovering the works of Nicholas Georgiadis and also add a few notes on Ian Spurling.
Georgiadis’ name is usually mentioned in connection with Kenneth MacMillan. The famous Scottish choreographer first worked with Georgiadis in the mid-50s.
At the time MacMillan had just started working on a new choreography based on Igor Stravinsky’s Danses Concertantes and had developed innovative and inventive steps for a pas de deux and a pas de trois.
Looking for a costume designer who may have been able to give life to his visionary steps, MacMillan visited the Slade School of Fine Art and eventually picked as his designer one of the theatre class students, Nicholas Georgiadis who had recently arrived in London from his native Greece where he had studied architecture.
Georgiadis based the colours for the sets on two main nuances, green and blue and created leotards for the male dancers enriched with bold patterning and arrows meant to accentuate the pointed spikiness of the choreography and short skirted tunics with an emphasis on the bust and the hips for the female dancers.
The main colours for the costumes revolved around a turquoise, chartreuse, blue and orange palette and the costumes were completed by urchin-cut wigs topped with bejewelled pyramids for the male dancers and winged devices for the female dancers.
The ballet was very successful and was followed by more successful collaborations between MacMillan and Georgiadis.
House of Birds (1955) featured for example brightly coloured costumes tinged with macabre references (the dancers playing the witch’s victims had their heads trapped in bird cages that sort of restrained their movements).
While the costumes for 1956 ballet Noctambules were considered a bit over the top and grand-guignolesque, Agon (1958) marked a return to form with colourful costumes that combined the Commedia dell’Arte with a Mediterranean palette.
The costume designer also experimented with realistic sets in Las Hermanas (1963) and explored the possibilities the oppressive atmosphere of a ballet could offer in Romeo and Juliet (1965).
This ballet featured rich and opulent designs conceived as metaphors for the suffocating life led by vulnerable Juliet.
Later on in his career Georgiadis referenced history in the costumes for The Prince of the Pagodas (1989), inspired by Elizabethan fashion and including court dresses and ruffs, though some of his most experimental costumes were created for Orpheus (1982).
This ballet featured avant-garde and inventive designs that won Georgiadis the Evening Standard award for Outstanding Contribution to Dance, and a dramatic set populated by alien-like insect creatures and angels of dark and light clad in trompe l'oeil body-tights.
Born in South Australia, Spurling studied in Adelaide and at the Slade School of Art.
The costume designer first worked with MacMillan on Seven Deadly Sins (1973), coming up with a very interesting set that included giant versions of children’s building blocks that spelt out the names of the various sins.
For ragtime ballet Elite Syncopations, Spurling created costumes characterised by a riot of colours, with lycra unitards decorated with prints of arrows, stars and stripes, the signs of the zodiac inspired instead his designs for 6.6.78 (1978).
In 1991, Spurling created the costumes for a new production of Dances Concertantes with a set inspired by Art Deco and by the tile work you often find at swimming baths, and costumes that mixed outerwear, underwear and swimwear.
Suggestion for fashion design students: go and see a ballet and try to develop ideas for costumes (remember that the best fashion designers also create costumes for the theatre, ballet and opera) or, as an alternative, try to come up with a proper fashion collection that moves somehow from a ballet or from costumes such as Georgiadis or Spurling's.
Remember: avoid falling into excessively "costumy" traps, but focus on the details, embellishments and techniques employed to make a costume.
To get further inspirations have a look at London's Royal Opera House collections site or visit the exhibition of the Yolanda Sonnabend and the Ian Spurling Design Collections currently on display in the Amphitheatre Gallery of the Royal Opera House (until August 2010).Member of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos Member of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos Add to Technorati Favorites Lijit Search