I was intrigued to receive a note concerning a new four-episode series from fashion house, CHANEL, entitled Gabrielle Chanel & the Arts. A new episode of the series, which spools on the CHANEL youtube channel, gives a whirlwind-but-witty overview of Gabrielle Chanel‘s personal and artistic connections with avant-garde ballet.
At the turn of the 20th Century, dance opened up new paths for movement and artistic expression, in a quest for freedom. So, too, did fashion. Chanel, who studied dance with Caryathis and Isadora Duncan, was defining her own style with comfortable and elegant clothes meant to liberate women’s bodies.
In 1913, Chanel experienced a profound aesthetic shock triggered by The Rite of Spring, presented by the Ballets Russes and led by the impresario Serge Diaghilev. Set to music by Igor Stravinsky, the performance was a total rupture with the classical ballet tradition and resulted in a huge scandal. Chanel had met Diaghilev in Venice while in the company of her great friend Misia Sert. She wholeheartedly espoused the innovative vision of a multi-faceted art form that mixed dance, music, painting, sets and costumes. It signaled the beginning of a longlasting friendship that endured until Diaghilev’s death in 1929, and produced numerous collaborations, with a restaging of The Rite of Spring as the first.
In 1924, Chanel, in tandem with Jean Cocteau and Pablo Picasso, put her design talent to work for the Train Bleu, a satire on the Roaring Twenties.
The very chic outfits she designed for the swimmers, golf player and tennis champion appeared as if they were made for the actual sport. Directly fitted on the dancers, her outfits illustrated the accuracy of her vision of fashion freed of its shackles and in touch with real life.
Chanel also contributed supple silk tunics in 1929 for the second staging of the young George Balanchine‘s Apollo Musagète for Diaghilev. The score was by Stravinsky and the lead role interpreted by Serge Lifar who formed a warm friendship with the couturier that included carrying her on his shoulder. Even after the death of Diaghilev, Chanel continued her dance involvement, in 1939, for the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, designing costumes for the Bacchanale with sets by Salvador Dali.
Up to the modern day, the house of Chanel, in her Coco’s honor, is a patron of Paris Opera Ballet.
images courtesy of chanel
Gabrielle Chanel & Dance | Inside-Chanel.com | quand at comme vous voulez!