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Fashion & dance: A natural fit in NY

Paul and Stella McCartney join long list of celebrities to work with the New York City Ballet. Sarah Kaufman reports.

world Updated: Sep 24, 2011 22:57 IST

While New York’s Fashion Week has come to an end, the New York City Ballet is having its own fashion moment. For its new production, ‘Ocean’s Kingdom’, ex-Beatle Paul McCartney wrote the orchestral music and libretto and daughter Stella, the fashion designer known for slouchy, oversize clothing, has created her first-ever dance costumes.

The 45-minute ballet, choreographed by Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins, premiered Thursday and continues through the coming Thursday, September 29, at Lincoln Center; it will be repeated there January 19 through 29.

For his first assay in ballet, the former rocker stuck to traditional characters a prince and princess from warring realms of earth and ocean. The collision of kingdoms is somewhat akin to the merger of a pop star with ballet, no?

But as for the mixing of high fashion and dance, that combination has a long and fruitful history. Some of the biggest names on the runway have sketched and stitched for the far less lucrative performing arts arena.

Stella McCartney is following in the well-heeled footsteps of Halston (for Martha Graham), Oscar de la Renta and Norma Kamali (for Twyla Tharp), Marc Jacobs (for Benjamin Millepied’s “Amoveo” at the Paris Opera Ballet), Isaac Mizrahi (for Mark Morris and Tharp) and Rodarte (tutu makers for the film “Black Swan”).

In addition to de la Renta, Tharp has turned to such garmentos as Ralph Lauren, Gianni Versace, Geoffrey Beene and Isabel Toledo, designer of Michelle Obama's inauguration dress and most frequently, to Kamali.

Going by sketches McCartney released just before press time, her costumes for ‘Ocean’s Kingdom’ make a dramatic statement. In rich colors and fluid cuts, they echo the ballet’s watery theme and borrow from the deep V-necks, roomy sleeves and broad shoulders of her fall ready-to-wear collection.

In crafting the dance wardrobe, McCartney, 40, has undoubtedly drawn on her experience fitting active bodies for Adidas, for whom she makes a line of women’s sports and yoga apparel. She is also designing the uniforms that the British Olympic team will wear in the 2012 Summer Games.

But will her bold designs suit the New York City Ballet dancers? Creating costumes that allow for a range of motion and enhance rather than distract from the choreography and can withstand the abuse of partnering, sweating and laundering takes a knowledgeable hand. And a practiced eye.

Don't these brand names come with a hefty price tag? For “Ocean’s Kingdom,” Stella McCartney made “her resources available at a very reduced level,” according to a statement from New York City Ballet Executive Director Katherine Brown.

Paul McCartney donated his services.