Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Making of Magic

As promised, this post is my report on the 60 Years of Designing the Ballet and the Tutu Project exhibitions at the Design Exchange. Ballet is a childhood obsession of mine, which never really left me, simply moved aside to the back of my mind making space for the clothing design obsession. These days, the two obsessions have found perfect partnership in regular visits to the National Ballet of Canada and in constant admiration of the choreography, costume and set design. The DX exhibition is dedicated to the process of creation of the magic of ballet.

As the elevator took me up to the exhibition hall on the second floor I felt that I got magically transported to cloud number nine. This exhibition is pure heaven not only for ballet lovers but also, and especially, for costume designers. It features objects usually found only backstage and offers a close up look at some of the costumes worn by principle characters in major National Ballet productions. Here are some of my favourites:
a headdress from the Nutcracker
a fragment of a dress from Sleeping Beauty
Juliet's costume from Romeo and Juliet

Other costumes on display include head pieces, wigs, boots, pointe shoes (in cross section too!), a whole wardrobe from the Nutcracker, a bolero worn by Mikhail Baryshnikov and, needless to say, a great multitude of tutus including one worn by Karen Kain, the artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada.

The highlight of the exhibition for me was the "show Bible" for the Nutcracker and Romeo and Juliet. 

The "show bible" is the most important document in the wardrobe for each particular production. It documents everything from the sketches of all the characters of the ballet to the fabrics swatches, trims and buttons to be used for each costume, to the instructions on how the costume was built. It is referred to when costumes need to be remade or repaired. I drooled over the bible for minutes on end and took tons of photos. 

The following two videos from the National Ballet of Canada website do a wonderful job at explaining the process of building a costume. 

What an exciting peek behind the scenes! 60 Years of Designing the Ballet exhibition gave me a privilege I do not normally get when I climb up to my seat in the 5th ring of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts! It definitely helped me acquire a new appreciation of the grandeur of work that goes into each production.

The exhibition is on until the 2nd of September. When you come, make sure to wander around the first floor of the DX. Here, you will find a fun and colourful parade of various tutus designed by artists, designers, and members of the community. This part of the exhibition is free to see and is very inspiring in nature.

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