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For those interested in the Art of Costume, this exhibition of Costumes, designs, photographs and even one set of scenery, the Ballet Russes exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra is a ‘must see’.

It was a last minute decision to take the trip to Canberra this weekend but I had to come as it was advertised that the exhibition was to close next weekend.  Whilst I have been here it has been announced that the exhibition will remain open until 1 May, so those of you who have procrastinated like I have can take this chance to come and view this wonderful collection much of which has not been seen in public since it was last worn on stage by the dancers themselves.

For a ballet company that was so obviously European, I was surprised at the number of Australian artists including Darryl Lindsay who had over time contributed to its international standing and success.  Illustrations for references depicting costumes, original costume sketches and paintings, programme and poster designs gave the viewer a feeling for the intricacy and the level of collaboration between various artists in order to realise a production.

The most striking of costumes is the piece the Gallery has selected as the “star” of the show – a tunic worn by the dancer playing the role of the Blue God in the ballet Le Dieu Bleu. Having seen this pictured in advertising and promotional material, I had assumed it a costume for a woman but no – it was designed for the principal dancer Vaslav Nijinsky and apparently it still bears traces of the blue body makeup on the inner surfaces.

I found it extremely interesting to see several garments on display that had received no conservation treatment at all – the work that goes into maintaining and preserving these pieces can surely be appreciated all the more when you see the pieces that have not been treated to this as yet.

Not being a fan of classical ballet, I was unaware of just how much the classical Australian Ballet scene owes to the existence of the Ballet Russes and its dancers.  It would appear that our  own companies and the early top schools in the country were begun by members of the company who elected to stay in Australia after a tour here.

What a remarkable legacy we have.


Are you in Canberra for the Craft and Quilt Show?  Are you planning a visit to Canberra in the next couple of months? images

The NGA has a small display of historic Australian quilts from its collection on  exhibition until early October.

Further details can be found  here.

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