FIT exhibit connects dance, fashion

Sophie Lewis, Contributing Writer

A dimly lit hall, displaying photographs and video footage from photographer Ann Deniau preceeds the main room of the “Dance & Fashion” exhibit at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. The shots portray dancers in their designer performance outfits, mostly in extreme poses to depict their characters’ emotions.

The exhibit, which opened on Sept. 13, brings together these two extraordinary art forms in a new light. Costume has long played a role in the performing arts, and fashion designers have in turn been inspired by the way dancers move during performances.

In recent years, the two industries have combined, with many designers such as Valentino, Rodarte and Prabal Gurung being asked to create costumes for shows. This presents an entirely new challenge to designers — to create clothes that not only look beautiful walking down a runway, but can also allow a dancer to move fluidly. The exhibition at FIT, open until Jan. 3, 2015, explores the connection between dance and fashion, with a combination of ensembles created for and inspired by dancers.

Entering the main room, there is an immediate sense of drama. The room is sparsely lit, giving the illusion of being in a theater. A soundtrack with recognizable music includes orchestral pieces from a range of shows. The pieces in the show are a mix of dance costumes created by designers, runway pieces inspired by dance itself and a few outfits worn by dancers in rehearsal. There are also a few shoes throughout, including old-fashioned ballet flats and precariously sexy heels, crafted by Christian Louboutin and Alexander McQueen and inspired by pointe shoes.

Some of the prominent designer-theater collaborations on display include Halston for Martha Graham Dance Company, Narcisco Rodriguez for Petrino Dance Company, and Gianni Versace for American Ballet Theater. Others such as Olivier Theyskens for New York City Ballet and Yves Saint Laurent for Opera National de Paris also stunned spectators. Runway works from Balenciaga, Chanel and Oscar de la Renta are also featured in the exhibit.

The fabrics captivated viewers with a collection of tulle, lace embroidery, ruffled organza and beautifully draped jersey. On the small square descriptions below each piece, designers note that the pieces are inspired by the way dancers move, with attention to athleticism, the lines of the body, and the beauty of it in motion. They capture the freedom of movement.

The array of designer pieces is beautifully overwhelming, but the atmosphere of the exhibit provides a calming environment to experience them. The entire exhibit takes one’s breath away, similar to leaving a show after a performance. FIT sophomore Ashley Yang said the exhibit is an incredible success.

“This whole exhibition is mind-blowing,” Yang said. “It gives us a substantial understanding toward the evolution in dance costumes throughout the centres. From Christian Dior to Rick Owens, the designers portray such a perfect fusion between the two exquisite art forms.”

A version of this article appeared in theWednesday, Oct. 1 print edition. Email Sophie Lewis at [email protected].