I made a last-minute trip down to DC this weekend to see the Ballet Russes exhibit at the National Gallery. I’ve always loved ballet and modern dance, so this collection was going to be of interest right from the start. But the exhibit was really a testament to the way many art forms — music, visual art, dance — collaborated in and propelled one another’s stylistic revolutions.
From Stravinsky to Matisse to Picasso to Chanel, the exhibit commands full sensory commitment. I was awed by the scale of the art on the full stage curtains, by Picasso’s massive Cubist costumes, by the music and dance recordings strategically played throughout the space. Then, contrasted against that majesty of scale, Chanel’s bathing costumes, the sketches of set designs. I was so taken by the costume sketches of Leon Bakst (like the one above).
Much as I was awed as I walked through the Gallery yesterday, this is not an exhibit you can comprehend as you see it. It takes longer than that. Thirty-six hours later, I am still absorbing its impact.
p.s. If you’re near DC (and the government isn’t still shutdown), definitely check out the Ballet Russes exhibit before it closes next weekend.
p.p.s. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for this documentary.