Couturiers de la danse - From Chanel to Versace


Véritable célébration du lien qui unit les créateurs de mode à la danse, l’exposition au CNCS de Moulins rouvre ses portes à compter du jeudi 21 mai.  Entre les prestigieuses créations de Coco Chanel, avec les ballets russes, celles signées par Gianni Versace pour Maurice Béjart ou Christian Lacroix puis Balmain par Olivier Rousteing avec le ballet de l’Opéra de Paris, Issey Miyake et William Forsythe et bien d’autres, la collection Seamstresses of the dance brings together 130 costumes that bear witness, thanks to an immersive and spectacular scenography, to the unbridled creativity of the great couturiers who never cease to sublimate the choreographers' creations on stage. A tribute to dance from every angle.

From 1918 to the 1950s, the Paris Opera, mainly under the direction of Jacques Rouché, enjoyed considerable international prestige through an exceptional flowering of musical, lyrical and choreographic creations. On the stage of the Palais Garnier, an important part of our national cultural heritage was thus constituted. The composers, performers, visual artists and choreographers who have left their mark on the history of modern art were called upon.
So, more than any other, the 20th century was the century of dance. From the Ballets Russes to modern dance, from Pina Bausch's Tanztheater to the French New Wave of the 80s, the currents followed one another, sometimes opposing, sometimes responding to one another. And with this liberation of movement will come the liberation of bodies.

Very early on, couturiers became interested in dance with the same enthusiasm: Gabrielle Chanel, a pioneer par excellence, then Yves Saint-Laurent brought movement into fashion. Following in the footsteps of creators such as Jean-Paul Gaultier and Christian Lacroix, Karl Lagerfeld and Maria Grazia Chiuri entered the dance world. For each, the dancers are the ideal accomplices.
These collections are certainly famous but still unknown to the general public and thanks to the will of two men, one a journalist and author, the other an architect and scenographer, a veil is lifted on a splendid collection of dance costumes, the exhibition Seamstresses for dancing.

Costumes by Viktor & Rolf for "Shape", choreography by Jorma Elo. Dutch National Ballet, Amsterdam, 2014. Erwin Olaf

Seamstresses of the dance brings together 130 pieces containing a journey through the century, all presented according to different themes. Thought as an emotional exhibition, the exhibition lifts a veil on the collaborations of the world of fashion and dance. 130 models, some of which have never been seen before in France, are brought together to celebrate these two universes. Almost a century of complicity.

Four themes punctuate the exhibition imagined by Philippe Noisette in a scenography by Marco Mencacci. From the clash of shapes to materials, from the second skin - couture - to dance to tutus, corsets and revisited pourpoints, the designers display their talent and imagination - almost - without constraint.

The first one, Shapes, is interested in working the lines with futuristic dance outfits, unusual silhouettes. An air of fantasy - with a lot of rigour, couture obliges - floats here.
With the second theme Second Skin, we're closest to the bodies. Sticky, transparent, the movement is magnified by the talent of Balmain, Givenchy, Dior, On Aura Tout Vu, Christian Lacroix. The costume is sometimes adorned, sometimes caressed.
With the theme Not so classic.The designers are revisiting tutus, pourpoint, corset and even sailor's tutu. From Saint Laurent to Jean-Paul Gaultier or Karl Largerfeld, genius is hidden in the details.
Finally, with the theme Materials, the dance becomes an accomplice of the exceptional, that is to say unique, innovative, unpublished materials. A parade of sorts.

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Costume by Riccard Tisci / Givenchy for "Boléro", choreography by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet. Paris National Opera, 2013. On loan from ONP. CNCS / Florent Giffard

Three rooms are dedicated to exceptional adventures Gianni Versace and Maurice Béjart, Issey Miyake and William Forsythe, Daniel Larrieu. Finally, throughout the halls, visitors will be able to witness the excellence of the sewing workshops of the Paris Opera, the Royal Ballet of London, the Monte-Carlo Ballets, the House of Dior and Balmain. From the classic revisited to the futuristic wardrobe, from lace to synthetic pleating, Seamstresses of the dance stages this fruitful dialogue in showcases designed as showcases.

During the tour, visitors will also be able to find video extracts of ballets magnifying movement and sewing.

Costume by Hervé L. Leroux for " Rythme de Valse ", choreography by Roland Petit. Paris National Opera, 1994. Coll. CNCS/ONP. CNCS / Florent Giffard

The exhibition, which has already welcomed 20,000 visitors to date, allows visitors to marvel at the creations resulting from prestigious collaborations, between Coco Chanel, a pioneer par excellence with her collaboration with the Ballets Russes, those signed by Gianni Versace for Maurice Béjart or by Christian Lacroix then Balmain by Olivier Rousteing with the Paris Opera Ballet, Issey Miyake and William Forsythe and many others!

Thanks to exceptional collections and loans, Seamstresses of the dance Here, thanks to an immersive and spectacular scenography, the unbridled creativity of the great couturiers constantly sublimates the choreographers' creations on stage. Designed by journalist and author Philippe Noisette (1), a specialist in live performance, especially dance, and designed by architect and multidisciplinary artist Marco Mencacci. (2)The exhibition unveils a veritable ballet of forms and materials where the costume becomes movement.

As Lucien Coutaud, a collaborator of Jean-Louis Barrault and Jacques Copeau among others, explained in his time: " The costumes of the characters will be small, portable sets where nothing will be neglected. From the tip of the shoe to the top of the hairstyle, everything has its importance; a colour of hat or shoe sometimes indicates more than any other part of the costume the individual's particularity. All the details form a whole that is exactly true to the character of the character [...]. " (3)

Show: "Under Appearance", Choreographer: Marie-Agnès Gillot, Company: Ballet de l'Opéra national de Paris, Music: Morton Feldman, Anton Bruckner, Gyorgy Ligeti, Lighting: Madjid Hakimi, Sets: Olivier Mosset, Costumes: Walter Van Bierendonck, Venue: Opéra Garnier, Paris on 29/10/2012 - © Laurent Philippe

A refined scenographic project

Screenwriter Marco Mencacci says, " Seamstresses of the dance unveils a true ballet of forms and materials where the costume becomes movement. The scenographic devices are designed to present the themes of the exhibition: form, materials, second skin and tutus. At the entrance, paper scrolls lightly evoking the underside of tutus will greet the visitor. In the museum's showcases, with their ethereal atmospheres under flashes of white light, the dance costumes are presented as works evoking the white cube of contemporary art spaces. Prestigious costumes resulting from the close collaboration between the choreographers and designers are displayed in diorama showcases enriched with paper cut-outs, canvas, pleated and braided, echoing the world of couture. Refined lights will highlight the design, shapes and materials of each costume. The last room, always spectacular, offers a white stage, bathed in a play between mirrors and lights where the visitor discovers the costumes thus magnified in the centre of this majestic space. All the costumes presented in the showcases and rooms are finely designed and reproduced in cartels to accompany and inform the visitor throughout the discovery of the exhibition. »

Show: "Brahms - Schönberg Quartet", Choreographer: George Balanchine, Company: Ballet de l'Opéra national de Paris, Music by Johannes Brahms orchestrated by Arnold Schönberg,
Set and costumes: Karl Lagerfeld, Lighting: Mark Stanley, Venue: Opéra Garnier, Paris, 21/10/2016 - © Laurent Philippe

Since 1924, when the Ballets Russes and Gabrielle Chanel met on stage to create the Blue Train, sewing has never ceased to be interested in the world of dance. And the latter in fashion. Yves Saint Laurent and Roland Petit for Notre Dame de ParisGianni Versace and Maurice Béjart, Christian Lacroix and the Paris Opera (Tarnished Angels, Jewels, Scheherazade, A Midsummer Night's Dream), Jean Paul Gaultier and Régine Chopinot, with the ballet ParadeAngelin Preljocaj and Jean Paul Gaultier (Snow White) then Azzedine Alaïa (Les Nuits, La Fresque), William Forsythe and Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo and Merce Cunningham, Anne Tersea de Keersmaeker and Van Noten, Viktor & Rolf with the Het National Ballet or Walter Van Beirendonck with the star Marie-Agnès Gillot or Iris Van Herpen with Benjamin Millepied or Sasha Waltz. Not forgetting dance designers such as Dominique Fabrègue, Jérôme Kaplan or Philippe Guillotel. All in all, it's a century of complicity between couturiers and choreographers on the international scene. The search for forms and materials is in conflict with the colours or the history of the costume in the same movement. This exhibition pays tribute to them.

A tribute that Martine Kahanea former director of the CNCS between 2006 and 2011, did not fail to reveal, when she was at the head of the Paris Opera Library and Museum: "... I'm very happy to be able to say that I'm a member of the CNCS. Most of the costumes [are] made in the Couture Workshops of the Théâtre National de l'Opéra de Paris. This work, comparable to that of haute couture, for its elegance, taste and attention to finish and detail, also includes a dimension of madness specific to the theatre. Once the imperatives of the stage have been taken into account, the imagination has free rein in the choice of fabrics, the marriage of colours and the architecture of the lines. This great freedom of inspiration can only be achieved through meticulous work at the service of the creators. (4)

Costume by Karl Lagerfeld for "Young Man", choreography by Uwe Scholz. Creation Les Ballets de Monte-Carolo, 1986. On loan from Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo. CNCS / Florent Giffard

Visitors will also be able to discover the permanent exhibition devoted to one of the greatest dancers of the 20th century, Rudolf Nureyev. This collection presents aspects of the personal and artistic life of this dancer with an exceptional international career. Furniture, musical instruments, textiles, paintings, engravings, sculptures, city and stage costumes, photographs and films, some one hundred pieces are presented in a theatrical scenography designed by Ezio Frigerio assisted by Giuliano Spinelli.

The National Centre for Stage Costumes

A true jewel of artistic heritage, the CNCS preserves, shows and explains the works of a collection that is unique in the world, which today comprises 20,000 theatre, dance and opera costumes, as well as props and sets.
This collection brings together items from the mid-19th century to the present day from the deposits of the Centre's three founding institutions, the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Comédie-Française and the Opéra national de Paris, to which numerous donations from companies, artists and theatres have been added.

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Costume by Gianni Versace for " Élégie pour elle, L., aile ", choreography by Maurice Béjart. Creation, Brussels, Belgium, 1989. On loan from Béjart Ballet Lausanne. CNCS / Florent Giffard

The CNCS benefits from the exceptional setting of the Quartier Villars, the first barracks built under the reign of Louis XV as part of the reform of the armies initiated by the Duke of Choiseul, a site classified as a historical monument since 1984. Thanks to its know-how and its strong creativity, the CNCS is a powerful tourist facility in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region and radiates beyond the borders with the touring of its exhibitions and a developed online offer offering, for example, thanks to its partnership with the Google Cultural Institute, the possibility for Internet users to discover virtually all of his exhibitions, hundreds of stage costumes in high definition and from every angle, or to visit the space dedicated to the great dancer and choreographer Rudolf Nureyev thanks to Streetview technology.

Due to the health crisis linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, the National Centre for Stage Costumes in Moulins has been closed to the public since 15 March 2020. Following the Government's announcement allowing the museums to reopen under certain conditions, the CNCS is actively preparing to welcome its visitors once again from Thursday 21 May and is offering a large free access weekend from 21 to 24 May 2020. All the necessary and indispensable measures in relation to the health recommendations in force have been put in place. The public will thus be able to visit the museum in complete safety and in compliance with the protocol established for the reopening. The programming of the temporary exhibitions has been adapted to this situation and the event planned for the Rio Carnival has been postponed. As soon as the reopening, it will therefore be possible to (re)discover Couturiers de la danse, exceptionally extended until November 1 2020 thanks to the agreement of all the lenders of the exhibition.

Find all programming 

Exhibition Seamstresses of the dance at the National Centre for Stage Costumes and Design, Villars district - Route de Montilly 03000 Moulins
Tel: 04 70 20 76 20

Header photo Gareth Pugh's costume for "Carbon Life", choreographed by Wayne McGregor. Creation Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House, London, 2012. On loan from the Royal Opera House, London. CNCS / Florent Giffard

(1) Philippe Noisette is a journalist and author, specialising in the performing arts, particularly dance. He has written Couturiers de la danse (Ed de la Martinière 2003), Le Corps et la danse (Ed de La Martinière 2005), Danse Contemporaine Mode d'emploi (Flammarion 2010) and Danse Contemporaine le Guide, nouvelle édition (2019) and has been responsible for the programming with Ariane Bavelier of the dance season at the Fondation Vuitton from October 2016 to February 2017 as part of the exhibition Icones de l'Art Moderne Collection Chtchoukine. He is currently collaborating with Paris Match, Les Inrocks and France Culture.
(2) Marco Mencacci is a multidisciplinary artist. His activity ranges from design to interior architecture, from theatrical scenography to events. His collections in blown glass from Murano are exhibited in contemporary art museums in France and abroad. The Chapithôtel du Parc de la Villette in Paris invites him to design and furnish its residences for guest artists. For its new building, the National Centre for Circus Arts in Châlons-en-Champagne entrusted him with the project of colouring the common spaces and individual residences. He is also the author of the new Guide des styles published by Éditions Hachette. Finally, Marco Mencacci teaches design and interior architecture at the Camondo School in Paris.
(3) Source: Les artistes et l'Opéra de Paris - Dessins et costumes 1920-1950 - Edition Herscher 1987
(4) Source: Propos du catalogue d'exposition d'un condensé du patrimoine de costumes et de bijoux de l'Opéra de Paris au Cooper Hewitt Museum New-York, 1988 

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