November 6, 2022
Ballet makes a statement at Neiman Marcus.
Max Mara celebrates milestone anniversary with a collection dedicated to ballet.
Last year, I resided in a place near Laguna Beach, Orange County… from here a several-mile scenic ride takes you to Newport Beach, where one day I decided to visit the Neiman Marcus.
I walked through the upscale department store, where on the whole, I found nothing new or noteworthy, apart from the high-end labels and steep prices. Practically on my way out, I wandered past a section on the upper floor when I did a double take: ballet dancers on a T-shirt ??!!
A little digging and it turns out these T’s are part of a Max Mara exhibit, launched to mark the 60th Anniversary of the Italian design company, which completed its international celebration tour at the State Historical Museum in Moscow over a decade ago.
For the momentous occasion, Max Mara commissioned a photographer whose work, inclined towards the aesthetics of human form, is showcased in galleries of Paris, London, New York, Madrid, Shanghai, Belgium, Mexico and Russia.
In preparing to shoot the exhibition “COATS”, the Belarus-born visual artist Valery Katsuba came up with the motif Albatross, a concept that for him embodies moving forward while embracing your history.
In fact, the Albatross is a seabird that looks like a slightly larger version of a seagull. The artist finds awe in the flight of this bird, its gliding course above the ocean amidst strong wings reminds him of the most hauntingly beautiful moments in life… moments deeply etched into your memory, moments that accompany you forever.
And so for Katsuba, the fashion company’s milestone salutes the stance of moving into the future whilst carrying the legacy of the past on your wings, just as the Albatross.
To create the impressive images on the cotton jersey T-shirts, the photographer worked with Bolshoi Ballet artists Anna Nakhapetova, Yury Baranov, Anton Savichev and Maxim Surov. An iconic image epitomizes the installation tableau with Anna in the forefront wearing the designer label’s camel colored coat, an Albatross above her, and male ballet dancers behind her caught in flight.
The shirts I saw in 2021 were attributed to the comeback of Max Mara’s classical dance collection as an “Anniversary Capsule” to celebrate its 70th year.
Valery Katsuba’s love for the human aesthetic enters into his work with ballet artists, inserted into settings that illuminate timeless themes of historical and cultural relevance. In one such project, the photographer juxtaposes a ballet dancer amidst the paintings of 18th & 19th century Spanish artist Francisco Goya.
Valery Katsuba, The Model: Classic and Contemporary. Ballerina and Goya paintings, Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando. Madrid., 2016.
In another collaborative endeavor, Katsuba works with the exceptional ballet artist Oxana Skorik, in one instance showcasing her classical dance pose against an impressive marble statue captioned “Dioscuro.” The figure is one of two twin brothers from Greek and Roman mythology, the sons of Zeus and Jupiter, depicted as gods of horsemanship and protectors of travelers, the pair are referred to as “the Dioskouroi”.
From the bird in flight, to a tremendous painter of our civilization, to semi-divine figures in historical mythology conceived by gods and humans coming together, it becomes evident that the photographer is transfixed by the idea of ascension — the state of a mere mortal aspiring and rising towards something higher.
Ballet fits this subject like a glove, or perhaps more aptly said, like a slipper, as in its very essence, the artform demands a complete devotion of mind, body and spirit, where all the realms of consciousness unite, enabling the human being to literally mold the self into an elevated version of oneself.
Skorik, a Ukrainian-born dancer who graduated from the highly-respected Perm Ballet School, a.k.a. Perm State Choreographic College, a classical dance institution known for its high caliber staff and training in the revered Vaganova Method, and who then rose to the top ranks of the classical dance world becoming a principal ballet artist of the globally treasured Mariinsky Theater, says in a recent clip where she is invited to teach a class of youngsters who aspire to her standard:
“It is not just about the physical work, it is about great mental work… and progress can only be made with the capacity to learn [in this league].”
So, what is the statement that ballet makes at Neiman Marcus, or anywhere else it arrives for that matter? It’s beyond words. It is a visual representation of ideals that most of us strive for.
Through the ballet dancer, qualities rarely seen together are combined into a synergistic working unit of consciousness.
toughness and fineness
stillness and movement
collectedness and fluidity
asymmetry and balance
absurdity and grace
science and art
masculine and feminine
All in ONE.
photo by Valery Katsuba, Albatross Exhibit (2011)
These perceived opposites work together in harmony, to comprise the alchemy of the underlying foundation of an expression that, with mathematical precision, represents a supreme standard of beauty recognized universally.
Really, Valery Katsuba and his quest for beauty reflects the very same yearning that lives in each of us… we all seek to feel it and to express it… many of us don’t know any better than to try and possess it.
But what is beauty, really?
The one thing we can probably agree on is that beauty is connected to an elevated state of being.
Perhaps the only thing we know for sure is that it involves evolving ourselves, evolving our consciousness.
Happy World Ballet Day 2022 !!!