Yigal at the Ballet

Published March 20, 2014

When choreographer Emery LeCrone approached designer Yigal Azrouël to design a line of costumes for the ballet she will be premiering this Sunday and Monday at the Guggenheim Museum, commissioned by its Works & Process program, Azrouël had one deal-breaker stipulation.

“It was like, ‘I don’t do tutus!,'” he laughed over the phone earlier this week. “I told her that. I was like, ‘It’s not me; I won’t do it, no matter what. You can go to someone else.'”

Fortunately, LeCrone was familiar with Azrouël’s decidedly non-girly, tutu-free work—and had sought him out specifically for that reason, particularly after seeing his Spring/Summer 2014 collection. “She liked the minimalistic part; she liked how sharp and defined the line is,” Azrouël says.

The 12 looks he would end up designing to complement LeCrone’s choreography represent a cohesive extension of some of the themes he presented for Spring/Summer—but one that accounts for the very particular needs of ballerinas. “You have to take into consideration, when they move, that it doesn’t break or doesn’t ride up,” he says. “I also play with transparent things, things that are a little bit more sheer. And for that it’s really making sure that everything stays on and doesn’t move. We test it many times.”

LeCrone’s choreography considers the same work by J.S. Bach—Partita No. 2 in C Minor—in two very different ways. The first is a traditional classical ballet interpretation, performed by dancers from the New York City Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre; the second is a contemporary work. In preparing his designs for both halves of the performance, Azrouël visited the dancers at rehearsal. “I really was moved by it,” he says. “It’s incredible. It’s so intense, and everything is the movement; and it’s so precise, [even] about how their hands move. I’ve watched ballet dancers before, but I never thought of all these details.”

For fittings, the dancers also came to Azrouël’s studio—and felt surprisingly at home. “In my studio, it’s funny, because it actually looks like a ballet studio. I have mirrors all around, from floor to bottom. So when they come in and they do all this testing, we put the music on and we let them dance,” he says. “If we see something, we catch it right away.”

Though the collaboration with LeCrone represents Azrouël’s first foray into the world of ballet wear, the feedback he’s gotten from the dancers so far suggests he may have found a new calling: “They come to me afterwards and say, ‘Oh my god, this is so comfortable. I’ve never worn even a regular bodysuit that felt that well.'”

BACH INTERPRETED: NEW CHOREOGRAPHY BY EMERY LECRONE WITH COSTUMES BY YIGAL AZROUËL WILL BE PERFORMED THIS SUNDAY AND MONDAY AT THE GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM. FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE VISIT THE GUGGENHEIM’S WORKS & PROCESS WEBSITE.