Artists-in-Residence Brad Rosenstein and Jean Lamprell conclude their month-long residence this weekend at the de Young. Rosenstein, an independent curator, has transformed the Artist Studio into a floating gallery of gossamer tutus created by renowned costumier Jean Lamprell. In this blog post, museum educator Gregory Stock interviews this dynamic duo.
Gregory Stock (GS): Where did the title Floating on Air come from?
Brad Rosenstein (BR): I came up with the title, which seemed natural when looking at Jean's work. We are focusing specifically on ballet tutus that evolved to show off the ballerina's skills, which were honed to create the impression of lightness and flight, and the costumes themselves are so airy and seem to defy gravity. Like the dancers who wear them, there's something magical about tutus.
GS: When you visit the Artist Studio, what is one aspect that a visitor might not notice at first glance?
BR: Although the use of the garments is very different, I'm fascinated by how much ballet costuming and high fashion couture have in common. Precise fit and customization for the wearer is all-important in both. The extremely detailed measurements of the dancers (displayed in Jean's notes on Carla Fracci and company in Raymonda) and the painstaking muslin prototypes created for each costume (shown in the Juliet sleeve and Titania bodice in the vitrine) are testament to the similarities between ballet costuming and haute couture.
Jean Lamprell (JL): Visitors to the Artist Studio might not initially realize the amount of work and detail that goes into making a ballet costume, or that the jewels are sewn onto the tutu by hand, not glued on.
GS: How did your partnership come about?
JL: I made costumes designed by Martin Kamer for Carla Fracci when I had my theatrical costume business, Jean Lamprell Ltd, in London. At that time Rudolf Nureyev guest starred in both the Royal Ballet and the London Festival Ballet before leaving London to become the artistic director of the Paris Ballet.
We made the Hunting Ladies' costumes for the Royal Ballet's production of Sleeping Beauty designed by David Walker and costumes for Patti Ruanne in Romeo and Juliet designed by Ezio Frigerio, both of which starred Nureyev. I had a recent meeting in San Francisco with Martin Kamer after all these years, prior to the Nureyev exhibition, which led to an introduction with Renee Baldocchi [director of public programs at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco], Jill D'Alessandro [FAMSF curator of textile and costume arts], and Brad Rosenstein.
GS: What most interests you about the construction of the ballet costume?
BR: There's really no other garment quite like a tutu. Its form is strict, but permits and even demands infinite variations. The tutu must allow for complete freedom of movement while maintaining a very solid structure, and like the dancers themselves, combines great strength with exquisite delicacy and beauty. The tutu is distinct and yet variable, and so it's no surprise that ballet-inspired clothing has dominated contemporary fashion for the past several seasons. It never really goes out of style.
JL: The unique thing about my ballet costumes is that they are all custom made to the dancer's measurements. My tutus are hand tucked to the dancer's measurements ensuring that the net is evenly distributed to form a perfect shape. My favorite thing is seeing a dancer in the finished costume on stage.
GS: What are your favorite ballets and why?
BR: Of the classics, Petipa’s two masterpieces, La Bayadere and Swan Lake, are among my favorites. I appreciate them for the incredible rigor, beauty, and range of the dancing—not to mention the gorgeous costumes. Among more modern works, Balanchine's Four Temperaments never fails to knock my socks off. It contains some of the most inventive and moving choreography ever created, even by Balanchine's incredibly high standards. And, although it was originally danced with very elaborate costumes, it's been subsequently done in simple rehearsal clothes, which reveal the genius and intent of the dancing more clearly than any other costumes could.
JL: My favorite ballet is Midsummer Night's Dream designed by David Walker. David understood how a costume should be designed and his costumes always floated across the stage.
Thus Sunday, February 3, at 3 pm, join the artists in the studio when Lamprell reveals the recreation of the Juliet costume she originally designed for the ballet in which Nureyev starred.
For more information, please visit the Artist Studio web page.