Celebrating 60 Years of Designing Ballet at the DesignExchange

The Design Exchange is currently celebrating 60 years of costume design for the National Ballet of Canada by exhibiting some of the most iconic costumes worn in productions by the company.

zeeBigBang spoke with Caroline O’Brien who curated 60 Years of Designing the Ballet and who has designed costumes for the National Ballet of Canada since 1989.

“We wanted to introduce the public to the idea of a design process from earliest concept to finished product. We chose the Nutcracker as one of the more well known ballets that people could then relate to,” said O’Brien.

O’Brien believes that classical ballet is truly a collaborative art form. Designing for the ballet is based around the movement of the dancers. According to O’Brien, the designer works with the choreographer every step of the way.

“It’s a collaboration of dance, music and production values. The costume becomes integral to what the dancers are doing on the stage. Often times, the costumes are developed alongside the movement so that one can enhance the other,” said O’Brien.

“A dancer, who we would classify as an Olympic athlete of the arts world, has to be able to do so many different things and the costume has to be able to function around that,” added O’Brien.

“There’s an exchange of ideas and concepts between the designer and the choreographer where the choreographer can lay out what the ideas are for the new piece and then the designer will do maybe one or two different series of drawings before the final concepts are confirmed,” O’Brien explained.

Also, as part of the exhibition, the Design Exchange commissioned ‘The Tutu Project,’ which features 60 original tutus made by a variety of Canadians, including O’Brien. The tutus represent the potential for unique design within such an iconic costume style.

60 Years of Designing the Ballet will be on display at the Design Exchange until September 2, 2012.

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