Images of the costumes he designed for "Renaissance", a 27-minute piece to be performed with the Paris Opéra Ballet (13th to 18th June), have recently been released.
Choreographed by Sébastien Bertaud on Mendelssohn's "Violin Concerto No. 2" and performed by 22 dancers, "Renaissance" is part of a program of four pieces.
Now, creating costumes for a ballet is something really special: you must get acquainted with the music and the choreography and make sure that the costumes reflect the concept of the work, respecting the movements of the body.
Bertaud, who is not new to working with fashion designers and a while back collaborated with Yiqing Yin, stated that in this case he tried to mirror through the movements the embroidery patterns of Rousteing's sketches. It sounds therefore that the movements will reflect the costumes in this piece rather than the other way round.
The rehearsal photographs show male and female dancers - the former in white jackets and beige-nude tights, the latter in bodysuits in the same shade. All the pieces are encrusted with thousands of crystals, rhinestones, pearls and silver and gold sequins.
In a nutshell, Rousteing seems to have applied to a corp de ballet the same standards he abides to when he dresses It girls, models, celebrities and superstars (early sketched for these costumes do not show much difference with custumised creations for superstars).
There are actually some issue that make you think the images currently online do not show the final costumes: the jackets of the male dancers seem too long; the leotards are also overembellished.
Ballet dancers' costumes are usually covered in appliqued elements, embroideries, crystals and gems in strategic parts so that when a male dancer lifts his partner he doesn't hurt his hands (in Balmain's costumes for the female dancers there are only small areas not covered with pearls and beads - like the armpits).
Extremely embellished designs also represent risk of further costume calamities and mishaps malfunctions such as getting stuck in the costume of another dancer while performing. Besides, men's jackets are usually shorter than what we see in the pictures showing Balmain's costumes (short videos on Rousteing's Instagram account also show that the overembellished jackets make a lot of noise when dancers move...), since they should show the dancer's legs moving freely. Therefore basic costume rules do not seem to have been respected in these designs.
In a way you feel that the costumes for "Renaissance" - echoing Balmain's Autumn 2012 collection that was inspired by Fabergé eggs, and reeking of Rousteing's own fascination with Louis XIV, France's Sun King - seem to exist as a publicity stunt rather than as functional costumes.
Rousteing reassured the audience reminding us he has dressed famous performers à la Kanye West and Rihanna, but one thing is to dress a star that has got to shine, another a corps de ballet that has got to actually dance. As seen in previous posts, designing costumes can indeed be a hit and miss exercise with the double potential of ending in triumph or shame.
The Paris Opéra dancers are professionals and will do the job even under the heavy and overembellished jackets, but you get the feeling that the emphasis in this performance will be on the fashion collaboration for advertising purposes rather than on the dancers and the corps de ballet (the pictures advertising this collaboration look like fashion photoshoots, with Rousteing and Bertaud in matching blazers...) and this may be a clear sign of a costume calamity ahoy.