This article was published on Artforum.com. Read the full article here.
“Even for the balletomaniacs among us, the material history of the art form—one caught up in interpretation, rigor, tradition, and, most of all, practice—can be hard to grasp, hidden as it is in theater archives and the closets of prima ballerinas past. Curator Patricia Mears’s exhibition here dusts off bejeweled costumes, pointe shoes, and modest rehearsal ensembles from the twentieth century, placing them in conversation with contemporaneous couture and prêt-à-porter by masters such as Yves Saint Laurent, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Christian Dior. The drool-worthy garments, organized into groups such as “Ballet Colors” and “The Neo-Romantic Revival,” effortlessly communicate Mears’s primary thesis: Modern designers often looked to these performers for sartorial inspiration. More fascinating, however, are her efforts to ground the idealized concept of the ballerina in the lives and wardrobes of the actual women who performed these roles.”