Posts by Anna Sutton

  • Marchesa Casati: Fabulous creation
    Luisa Casati in a fountain costume by Paul Poiret, circa 1920
  • Marchesa Casati: Fabulous creation
    Luisa Casato photographed by Man Ray in 1935
  • Marchesa Casati: Fabulous creation
    Luisa Casati wearing the “Queen of the Night” costume, designed by Léon Bakst, in 1922

Marchesa Casati: Fabulous creation

Ballet history is rich in astonishing muses, but there are none like the Marchesa Luisa Casati. “I want to be a living work of art,” said the woman who emerged at the Fin de siècle with cavernous kohl-rimmed eyes, moonstruck skin and a flame-tinted Medusa coiffure. The Milanese heiress and socialite possessed an outré style which has inspired countless artists, writers and designers, including Marcel Proust, Jack Kerouac, Man Ray and Karl Lagerfeld. Infinite Variety: the Life and Legend of the Marchesa Casati chronicles her extravagant quest for the extraordinary in all its rococo richness. The authors, Scot D. Ryersson and Michael Yaccarino, explore the making of an icon who remains unsurpassed in her eccentricity.

Casati was inspired by artists from a young age, and for her dressing up was the chief embodiment of her creative vision, a type of living theatre, where there was no discernible difference between costumes and clothes. This idea extended to all aspects of her surroundings: her houses were exquisitely decorated temples of decadence, and even the song-birds in the gardens were hand-dyed to match her colour schemes. (more…)

14 November 2012

Emma Livry: Bright star
Emma Livry as Farfalla in Le Papillon

Emma Livry: Bright star

Ballet in the 19th-century was a dangerous pursuit. Supernatural atmospheres were sometimes brought back to earth when sylphs became entangled in flying harnesses and cloud curtains came crashing down.

Numerous tragic mishaps occurred, but the most enduring in the popular memory concerns the ballerina Emma Livry. In 1862, Livry’s tutu burst into flames during a rehearsal of Daniel Auber’s opera La muette de Portici. (more…)

26 July 2012

  • Infinite light: the dance of Loie Fuller
    Loie Fuller
  • Infinite light: the dance of Loie Fuller
    Loie Fuller
  • Infinite light: the dance of Loie Fuller
    Poster by Jules Cheret
  • Infinite light: the dance of Loie Fuller
    Loie Fuller

Infinite light: the dance of Loie Fuller

Art Nouveau goddess Loie Fuller unveiled modern movement to the European dance and art worlds. Without any formal training, she began her career in the USA in late 19th-century burlesque (which at that time meant a satire of “serious” theatre) and in vaudeville. As a skirt dancer, she shared the European fascination with Orientalism, drawing elements from veil dancing and the spiralling formations of the serpentine to create performances of sublime beauty. (more…)

23 March 2012

  • Designing Infinity: Jennifer Irwin
    Design sketches for Warumuk - in the dark night
  • Designing Infinity: Jennifer Irwin
    Costume for the Milky Way vignette of Warumuk - in the dark night
  • Designing Infinity: Jennifer Irwin
    Jennifer Irwin

Designing Infinity: Jennifer Irwin

 

With the world premiere of Infinity taking place in Melbourne in only a couple of weeks, Anna Sutton spoke to costume designer Jennifer Irwin about her collaborations with Graeme Murphy and Stephen Page for The Narrative of Nothing and Warumuk: in the dark night.

“I love working with both of them and they’re both very different,” Jennifer says of the two choreographic veterans as she shows me the “forbidden fish” costume for Warumuk – an iridescent dress that twinkles in a wave of oxidised metallic sequins.

“The costumes I’ve done for Graeme have always been more abstract and contemporary, and more fashion, stripped back, whereas Stephen’s are always Aboriginal-based – still abstract – but with a story behind it.” (more…)

8 February 2012

  • Designing Infinity: Alexi Freeman
    Alexi Freeman works TAB's Ladies' Cutter Musette Molyneaux.
  • Designing Infinity: Alexi Freeman
    Designs for There's Definitely a Prince Involved.
  • Designing Infinity: Alexi Freeman
    Alexi Freeman mid-creation.
  • Designing Infinity: Alexi Freeman
    Designs for There's Definitely a Prince Involved.

Designing Infinity: Alexi Freeman

Alexi Freeman is a star on the rise in the Australian fashion industry and his costume designs for Gideon Obarzanek’s There’s Definitely a Prince Involved mark an exciting debut collaboration with The Australian Ballet. Anna Sutton caught up with him to talk Infinity.

As Alexi shows me his rhythm-laden illustrations for There’s Definitely A Prince Involved, he explains that he set out to create an evocative aesthetic. “In terms of Gideon’s take on producing a ballet work, it never seemed to me like he wanted to do something direct, it was more about an exploration of ballet and Swan Lake in particular. I looked for a motif that suggested birds and flight without being too literal.”

The result is a palm tree-inspired motif which is bold and rich in nuance, while not being so overt as to plunge the audience into a specific setting. These prints, in flesh and black-and-white with bone-like patterns, also reference the human form. Laser-cut, felt headpieces featuring an intricate pattern echo the motif to toweringly dramatic effect. (more…)

7 February 2012

  • Elegance in exile
  • Elegance in exile
  • Elegance in exile

Elegance in exile

 

Anna Sutton slips amongst the glamorous shadows of the past. All photography by Joshua Burns.

On a recent trip to Venice I saw a sublime exhibition that explores the contributions of Russian émigrés to fashion and costume design.

Elegance in Exile: Between fashion and costume, Diaghilev’s time is housed in The Museum and Study Centre of the History of Fabrics and Costume at Palazzo Mocenigo, a 17th-century Gothic building that formerly belonged to one of Venice’s most noble families. It’s a fittingly grand choice of venue for this event.

The exhibition, curated by Francesca Dalla Bernardina, features costumes of the Ballets Russes designed by artists such as Leon Bakst, Andre Derrain and Natalia Goncharova, whose take on colour was as stunningly original as anything achieved by the Fauvist painters, as well as fashion created and informed by the Russian émigrés who scattered all over Europe following the October Revolution.

At the heart of this show is the lasting contribution Sergei Diaghilev made to culture. (more…)

9 January 2012