If you find yourself in Toronto with an afternoon to spend downtown, I highly recommend a lingering walk through the current ballet-themed exhibits showing at the Design Exchange (a short walk from Union Station for out-of-towners).
The Tutu Project celebrates 60 years of the iconic rainment with a dazzling display of 60 tutus designed by groups, artists, and well-known Canadian labels such as Adrian Wu, Lundstrom and Vawk.
The venerable skirt is a symbol of the art the world over, but means a rite of passage to a young ballerina.
“It’s the epitome of a prima ballerina but you have to earn the right to wear it – when you dance in the tutu you have to have absolutely impeccable classical ballet technique,” said Veronica Tennant, former principal ballerina with the National Ballet and Order of Canada recipiant, who attended the exhibits’ opening in July.
While each person or group was given the same white pancake tutu (the flat kind that shoots out above the knee, as opposed to the bell-shaped tutus Degas painted), the results of their creative efforts is a stunning range of art.
“What’s so exciting about this exhibition is the whole concept of innovating the tutu. Turning it over to fashion designers and costume designers and seeing how it sparks their creativity,” says Tennant.
Some tutus are rooted in balletic themes, some in a specific message (such as the Pride 2011 peacock skirt, in gallery below) and others that manifest beauty, frivolity and bewilderment.
Don’t let the name of the exhibit scare you off, one need not be a fan of high-fashion or ballet to enjoy the display. Indeed, I attended with my athlete friend who adored the showing and we met an old friend, a carpenter, who was equally wowed.
All photos credits Kate Kennedy/QMI Agency
Also on display at the Design Exchange is 60 Years of Designing Dance, an interactive and enlightening exhibit of the design of dance – showing sets, sketches, props and costumes from the National Ballet of Canada’s most well-known production The Nutcracker.
Attendees can take a quick ballet lesson at the barre, gaze upon some of the best designed ballet costumes in the world, marvel at props and peek inside miniature sets, no more the size of an open laptop, and as intricate as they are tiny.
Both exhibits run until Sept. 2.
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