July 20th, 2013 by Monica Murgia
Triadic Ballet Costumes
Seeing the costumes from the Ballet Russe
made me curious about costuming in general during this era. This led me to do some investigating, and I was really happy to find some images of theater costumes designed by the students and faculty of the design school Bauhaus
. Back in November, I wrote a bit about the Bauhaus influence on the design world. (New to my blog? You should check out: Trigère vs. the Utah Tailoring Mills)
Costumes for Triadic Ballet, designed and created by Oskar Schlemmer. Image courtesy of Freelancer Frank.
Bauhaus (or Staatliches Bauhaus) was a German design school that operated from 1919-1933. Founded by Walter Gropius, the school’s mission was to promote a synthesis of the arts. Importance was placed on considering how to unify all aspects of design, from typography, fashion, architecture, interior design and so on. (Gesamkunstwerk is the precise term in German) The school attracted many fantastic designers. A recognizable Bauhaus style emerged because many that attended the school were interested in functionality and minimalism.
Geometric forms, balanced compositions, and a sort of “futuristic” look are all telltale signs of Bauhaus design.
Costume for Triadic Ballet Image courtesy of Body Pixel.
Bauhaus encapsulated the very ideal, utopian collective that many creative types wish they could be join. Every art and design discipline was represented at the school. I was familiar with some of the Bauhaus teachers, including:
- László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946), a Hungarian born artist and painter that emphasized the integration of new technology and industrialization in design. Moholy-Nagy taught several courses in diverse media, but was most interested with manipulating photography. He considered cameras to be a “new eye”, capable of seeing and capturing the world in ways in which the human eye cannot.
- Josef Albers (1888-1976), the famed color theorist and Modernist painter.
- Anni Albers (1899-1984): a textile designer, weaver, and printmaker that helped pioneer many young women’s careers.
yet knew very little of Oskar Schlemmer (1888-1943), the instructor responsible for direction and development of these costumes.
Wire Costume (Draht-Kostüm) from Notes and Sketches for the Triadic Ballet (Das triadische Ballett) by Oskar Shlemmer. Image courtesy of MoMA.
Schemmer joined the faculty at Bauhaus in the early 1920s. He taught a variety of courses, including sculpture. His main role at the school revolved around the theater. He choreographed and designed costumes for the school’s performances.
Costume for Triadic Ballet by Oskar Schlemmer. Image courtesy of Anne Cann.
Like many of the instructors at Bauhaus, Schlemmer was eager to translate his art into everyday life. He wanted to take his sculptures and make them come to life. Many of the performances at Bauhaus worked on translating this concept into a reality.
Dancer in White (Tänzerin in Weiss) from Notes and Sketches for the Triadic Ballet (Das triadische Ballett) by Oskar Shlemmer. Image courtesy of MoMA.
Shlemmer’s first international success as a costume designer was with the Triadic Ballet. It premiered in Stuttgart in 1922. This avant-garde ballet explores how modern technology and design literally transform the human body.
Dancer in White designed by Oskar Shlemmer. Image courtesy of FlickerRiver.
Many of the costumes transform the dancers into geometric shapes – making them resemble children’s toys. The geometry of the costume echoed the design principles taught at Bauhaus – thus elevating the status of the school as the ballet toured the world.
Notes and Sketches for the Triadic Ballet (Das triadische Ballett) by Oskar Schlemmle. Image courtesy of MoMA.
Costume for the Triadic Ballet by Oskar Schlemmle. Image courtesy of Flickr.
Abstract Dancer (Der Abstrakte) from Notes and Sketches for the Triadic Ballet (Das triadische Ballett) by Oskar Schlemmle. Image courtesy of MoMA.
Abstract Dancer by Oskar Schlemmer.
Image courtesy of ArsCenter
The ballet also explored how technology impacted design. Many of the dancers appear to be the personification of electricity. Wire and metal were used to construct many of the costumes. The stage lighting illuminated these costumes, making them shine. This gave the illusion that the costumes were fitted with electric lights.
Spiral (Spirale) from Notes and Sketches for the Triadic Ballet (Das triadische Ballett) by Oskar Schlemmer. Image courtesy of MoMA.
Spiral by Oskar Schlemmer. Image courtesy of unw0man.
Figurines of Schlemmer’s costume designs were exhibited at the Societe des Arts Decoratif in Paris in 1930. MoMA also had a retrospective of these designs in 1938, showcasing the figurines as well as the notes and sketches appearing in this post.