New York City Ballet in Marc Chagall's costume designs for Balanchine's "Firebird." Courtesy LACMA.
I am a self-confessed costume nerd who really needs little persuasion to travel nearly 3,000 miles to see a costume exhibition—which is what I did when I set off for California for the new exhibition at Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage. I knew Marc Chagall primarily for his sumptuous blue swirling paintings featuring violin-playing goats, his incredible ceiling at the Paris Opéra's Palais Garnier, and murals at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, so I was intrigued to see his work with ballet.
Marc Chagall (1887–1985), was born Moishe Zakharovich Shagal in Belarus. He later moved to St. Petersburg, Russia, to study art, apprenticing under famed Ballets Russes designer Leon Bakst. Chagall's work in ballet and opera, however, did not begin until he and his wife Bella arrived in the U.S. as World War II refugees in 1941.
Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage, adapted from an earlier exhibition at the Montreal Music of Art and curated by Yuval Sharon and Jason H. Thompson, is an exciting opportunity to see 41 costumes and nearly 100 designs. But it is the costumes that really steal the show. You won't see any tutus here, but instead amazing, almost cartoon-like realizations of Chagall's artwork. LACMA's exhibition runs through January 7, 2018. For those of you who can't make the trip like I did, here's a rundown of highlights.
Sometimes I wish I were best friends with all the world's ballet costume designers and wardrobe supervisors. They have such fascinating perspectives on ballet history and the dancing body, and they're gifted artists in their own right. Plus—at least according to the recent spate of behind-the-scenes videos that investigate ballet costume shops—they all seem to be really cool people.
Ballet West performed The Firebird last fall, and University of Utah student Brent Rowland recently released a short film documenting the creation of the title character's elaborate tutu. The star of the video is BW costume production director David Heuvel, who has worked with the likes of Margot Fonteyn, Natalia Makarova and Violette Verdy. His insightful description of the process of construction, and of his goals as a costume designer—"the costume has to move with the artist, breathe with the artist"—make for compelling viewing. And the tutu itself is gorgeous, of course.
What better way to celebrate #tututuesday? Take a look!