Courtesy of Saint Louis Ballet
Tutus, leotards, wrap skirts—ballet has a recognizable fashion vocabulary. Gen Horiuchi, artistic director of the Saint Louis Ballet Company, wanted to mix it up.
“To get out of our regular box a little bit, I wanted to expand the idea to fashion designers,” he says.
The results will be on display Saturday at Vision: Where Ballet + Fashion Meet. Three new dance pieces will feature choreographers paired with fashion designers; two pairs are New Yorkers, and one pair, including Horiuchi, represents St. Louis.
During his time with the New York City Ballet in the '80s and '90s, fashion designers like Isaac Mizrahi and Valentino were vital parts of the backstage landscape, recalls Horiuchi. “That was something I always wanted to do with the Saint Louis Ballet,” he says.
For the past year or so, he’s been working with Saint Louis Fashion Fund chair Susan Sherman to choose candidates among the finalists for the fund’s Caleres Emerging Designer Award, keeping in mind the demands that the chosen designers would face. “The challenge of ballet costumes is they have to be able to move—kicking legs, spinning, men lifting women,” Horiuchi explains. “Fashion designers don’t have that restriction. That was a challenge, but I think they enjoyed it.”
Choreographer Emery LeCrone will be paired with designer Hillary Taymour, whose distinctive line of leather goods, Collina Strada, has recently expanded into shoes and apparel. Dancers of Tom Gold’s piece “Oasis” will feature music by John Zorn and be attired by Washington University alum Jordana Warmflash of the playful, feminine line Novis.
For his own work, Horiuchi hewed to a classical style. His design partner is Wai Ming designer Emily Brady Koplar, who was selected for the St. Louis Fashion Incubator's inaugural class.
Gen Horiuchi, artistic director of the Saint Louis Ballet Company, will team up with St. Louis designer Emily Brady Koplar for the production of Vision: Where Ballet + Fashion Meet. SLM visited Koplar's studio earlier this year.
“When I was talking to Emily, we wanted to keep a standard look like in ballet—tutus for the girls, add-ons, and layovers,” Horiuchi says. "We kept the same shape, and yet it’s going to be Emily’s colors and designs."
He hopes to have a fashion-based show every year or so, giving new designers time in the spotlight and returning to past favorites.
Watch the inaugural effort Saturday night at the Touhill Performing Arts Center, and enjoy a reception prior to showtime, in which the designers’ work will be on display. Tickets range from $34 to $59 and are available online.