Dior designs costumes for Philip Glass-composed ballet in Rome

Dior designs costumes for Philip Glass-composed ballet in Rome

‘Dance in all its forms and variations is a very important frame of reference for me; it fascinates and inspires me, because it gives the body and its possibilities a central role,’ explains Dior artistic director Maria Grazia Chiuri.

Dance has long had associations with the French maison. In 1955, Christian Dior designed the wedding dress of Royal Ballet star Margot Fonteyn, and his autobiography abounds with metaphors comparing the rhythm behind and performance of showcasing a collection as a ‘ballet’. 

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Dior S/S 2019, featured in the Dior Magazine. Photography: Ken Browar

For her S/S 2019 collection, Chiuri celebrated the power, femininity and strength of the pioneering female dancers Isadora Duncan and Loïe Fuller, with a featherlight and ethereal offering of gauzy dresses in nude tones, pleated tulle skirts and ballet pumps. Her accompanying runway show featured a collaboration with choreographer Sharon Eyal. ‘Dance in all its forms allows me to explore the body and its performances in a way that is harmonious and beautiful, even unconventional.’

On Thursday 29 March, Dior’s couture-meets-costume design credentials took centre stage, when the designer debuted her creations for Nuit Blanche, a ballet dedicated to the composer and musician Philip Glass, performed at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma.

Nuit Blanche is one of a triptych of ballet performances dedicated to Glass, set to Tirol Concerto (2000), a composition scored for solo piano, accompanied by string orchestra, and choreographed by Sébastien Bertaud. ‘The music evokes a musical sonority that continuously increases to reach a culminating point. In this way, the dancing also grows of intensity as an explosive energy,’ says Eleonora Abbagnato, director of Ballet at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma and an étoile at the Opéra National de Paris. She takes the lead in Nuit Blanche, and collaborated with Chiuri on its costumes. ‘We worked together to ensure that they were comfortable and suitable to the movements in the performance’.

‘Costume design is a precise discipline, with rules and requirements that differ from those we need to consider in a collection,’ agrees Chiuri. For the ballet, she created 16 costumes, including those for star dancers Abbagnato and Friedemann Vogel, in lightweight and movement-enhancing fabrics. For the ballet corps, delicate pleated skirts with mille-feuille layers were paired with sheer leotards with handcrafted floral details. Eight people worked on the design of each costume, which in total feature 400 metres of tulle and 1500 flowers.

For Abbagnato, Chiuri created pieces in shimmering mother-of-pearl hues, in both knitwear and tulle. ‘The skirt in particular is an extraordinary object,’ she says of a design created in the workshops of the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome in collaboration with the Dior Haute Couture Workshop, moulded to Abbagnato’s body. The voluminous skirt silhouette is based on the maison’s signature ‘Miss Dior’ dress, and features handcrafted silk flowers slipped between two layers of point d’esprit and tulle. A haute-couture take on a herbarium, the design nods to both Dior’s love to flowers but also to the delicate pages of books, and Chiuri’s own love of reading.

‘Fashion, like dance, defines bodies and teaches us to better understand their characteristics,’ Chiuri says of her creative process. ‘These costumes that can arouse wonder, but they are practical at the same time.’ §

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