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Let’s Dance

Start Date 28 September 2019
End Date 12 January 2020
Venue Kunstmuseum Den Haag
Location The Hague, Netherlands
Curator Madelief Hohé

A dance floor as a catwalk, with both models and professional dancers: in 2018 Maria Grazia Chiuri for Dior literally brought fashion and dance together. And she is certainly not the only designer who sees the world of dance as a great source of inspiration. Many designers, including Giambattista Valli and Tomo Koizumi, are producing designs featuring big clouds of tulle, and dancers are increasingly being used as models. Like fashion, dance is about movement, freedom and beauty. The influence of dance can also be seen away from the catwalk. The charleston, the jive, disco and house not only get us on our feet, they also affect what we wear. Subcultures like hiphop have changed the face of fashion for good. Our Let’s Dance! fashion exhibition will explore this unique relationship between fashion and dance. Besides professional dance costumes, influential costumes from dance films, and clothes to dance in, it will also feature designs produced for ballet companies by well-known couturiers like Viktor & Rolf, Christian Lacroix, Yves Saint Laurent, Vivienne Westwood, Jan Taminiau, Iris van Herpen and Rodarte, as well as work by designers like Dior and David Laport who were inspired by dance.

Like a film
Of course Let’s Dance will include exquisite tutus and classic ball gowns, but it will also take visitors on a journey through time, with items that will be instantly recognisable to many. Didn’t we all want to look like Madonna in her cool dance videos in the 1980s? Or, ten years earlier, like John Travolta in his white disco suit? The fashion of dance appeals to the imagination, and this is regularly reflected in mainstream fashion. Just think of the red shoes from The Wizard of Oz, Elvis’ blue suede shoes, the legwarmers from Flashdance, Michael Jackson’s leather jacket from Thriller, and Beyoncé’s styling. Popular dances have also often influenced fashion styles. Take the 1920s, for instance, when everyone wanted to dance the charleston, preferably in a dress with lots of beads and fringing, or the 1950s, when rock ‘n’ roll was at the height of its popularity. Let’s Dance! will highlight many aspects of fashion in dance, looking at a large number of dance styles.

Adapted court dress
Special dance fashion first emerged in the seventeenth century, when ballet performances were just as much a spectacle as today’s catwalk shows at the major fashion weeks, not least because of the fabulous costumes worn by the dancers. French King Louis XIV – himself a dancer – gave the world of dance a particular boost during his reign, ordering the establishment of the Académie Royale de Danse, among other things. In his time, dancers wore specially adapted court dress, which featured heavy fabrics and corsets, so the dancers did not enjoy full freedom of movement. This later changed as lighter fabrics were used, and the tutu and point shoes were introduced in the nineteenth century. Few people realise that these designs were actually based on women’s fashion of that time.

Ballets Russes
The Russian ballet company Ballet Russes, established by Sergei Diaghilev, was particularly influential in the early twentieth century. Their innovative use of colour and eastern influences not only had an impact on fashion, but also on the visual arts. The company produced some important dancers and choreographers and had a reputation for continually striving to innovate, both in choreography and music, and in its costumes and theatre sets. Diaghilev collaborated with great artists like Picasso and Marc Chagall, and in the 1920s he asked Coco Chanel to design costumes for the company. Free spirits like Isadora Duncan, and dancers Irail Gadeskov and Gertrud Leistikow in the Netherlands, wore influential avant-garde designs on stage. Let’s Dance! will include a design by Mariano Fortuny of the type that Isadora Duncan liked to wear, and several dance outfits that belonged to some of these dancers, as well as a number of spectacular designs for the Ballets Russes. They also influenced the dance world in the Netherlands, as can be seen in the collection of the Dutch National Ballet, which has worked with various designers over the years, foremost among them being Toer van Schayk. The costume and set designs by this dancer, choreographer, artist and costume designer are internationally renowned, and Gemeentemuseum Den Haag will be showing several fine examples of his work. The exhibition will also feature some fabulous works on loan from the collection of Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Paris. These items are rarely shown to the public. And loans from the Centre Nationale de Costume de Scène in Moulins will include designs by Christian Lacroix and Jean-Paul Gaultier.

Fashion designers
From the 1950s onwards fashion designers were increasingly involved in costume design for dance shows, resulting in some extraordinary – at times extravagant – designs. The Gemeentemuseum’s exhibition will therefore feature designs for the National Ballet by Viktor & Rolf, Jan Taminiau, Tim van Steenbergen, Barbara Karinska’s designs for the ballet Jewels, combined with jewellery by Steltman, and designs by Rodarte. The exhibition will include design sketches for several ballets by Yves Saint Laurent, work by Christian Lacroix, Jean Paul Gaultier and many others. It will also consider the influence of music styles and videos. Hiphop is a typical example of a lifestyle where music is a key element, and where clothes play an important role, not only allowing the wearer freedom of movement, but also enabling them to stand out. Distinctive styles of dress are also associated with music like disco and gabber, and dance styles like voguing. The exhibition will end with a catwalk on which visitors will be able try out vogueing, ballroom dancing, or jive and other rock ‘n’ roll dance styles for themselves. So ‘Let’s Dance, put on your red shoes and dance the blues’ at Gemeentemuseum Den Haag this autumn!