Collaborations between designers and creative arts doesn't seem to want to cease and I've somehow been caught in the thick of it in the past week which very nicely creates an arc that perhaps might culminate in the Ballet Russes exhibition at the V&A or perhaps beyond that depending on what else comes up. I've been weaving in and around the lot of them this week that has gone from Coco Chanel's eventual (hinted at in the Coco and Igor film) collaboration with Ballet Russes… which then led onto Leon Bakst's work for the Ballet Russes noted yesterday through the Erdem scarf print… and then I took a little trip to the Sadler's Wells theatre in London to revisit costumes that perhaps hold more significance now than they did when they debuted last year.
In between all of that, you could fill it in with other noted theatre/ballet/opera collaborators such as Karl Lagerfeld carrying on the Chanel tradition by creating costumes for The Dying Swan and Viktor & Rolf for the opera Der Freischutz and on a smaller scale you have art/fashion hybrid luminaries like Benajamin Cho who did costumes for Scottish Ballet's Ride the Beasts production. Looking to the future, a month from now, we have Rodarte's most probably resplendent 40 costumes for Darren Arronofsky's upcoming film Black Swan. In itself, it's a genre that could be expanded upon in its entirety in great detail but I prefer to pick out the individual instances that are significant to me as a part time ballet lover and a hack whose interest in the arts seems to be fleeting and unfortunately never all-consuming.
I therefore have not actually seen Eonnagata but the original reviews for this production in 2009 were compelling enough. Of course as a lazy part-timer, there was never enough impetus to see it for real. It's a pretty star studded collaboration between Canadian theatre director Robert Lepage, choreographer Russell Maliphant and the star that of course peppers my own ballet memories…Sylvie Guillem. The production centres on the transvestite antics of the 18th century figure Chevalier d'√âon but then weaves in the Japanese onnogata, a male actors who perform female roles in Kabuki theatre. Guillem and Maliphant therefore take on the female and male sides of this cross-dressing swordsmen. It's a heady mix made headier by the addition of superb lighting by Michael Hulls and of course, costumes by Alexander McQueen. It was obviously this vital cog in the production that prompted me to see the costumes in person backstage at the Sadler's Wells where Eonnagata is currently re-running for four nights only.
Where the pieces come to life is of course on stage and unfortunately backstage, the wear and tear of these costumes that have toured all over the world were evident. Still, knowing that Alexander McQueen was an admirer of Sylvie Guillem (I'm still trying to hunt down the documentary on Guillem..Sur Le Fil, where she visits McQueen in his studio…) and knowing that he made the costumes by directly draping fabric onto body to allow for movement made studying the pieces up close a treat, especially when paired with video clips of Eonnagata as well as the beautiful stills by Eric Labbe. There were little inflexions of his own collections in the costumes that worked in tandem with the themes of Eonnagata; military jackets, billowing dramatics seen in the red cape and taut body forming seen in the reflective stripe bodysuits.
The pieces I liked best and actually formed the bulk of the costumes were the diaphanous white robes that had structure built into them through the L-shaped sleeves and at the same time, allowed for movement. I love that McQueen didn't just think of standalone beautiful pieces that are there for gawping but pieces that allied with Hulls' lighting and Maliphant and Guillem's movements in perfect synchronisation.