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BALLET TYPICALLY CALLS FOR a backdrop of sorts, but not otherwise a great deal of scenery. Nor are its costumes typically elaborate, what with the athletic requirements of dance. Yet a goodly number of artists have directed their talents to this theatrical genre. Hitherto, SimanaitisSays has focused on several, Pablo Picasso, David Hockney, Fernand Léger, and George Murphy. Here are tidbits on three more, Cecil Beaton, Chanel, and Joan Miró, gleaned from Cyril W. Beaumont’s classic book, Design for the Ballet.

Design for the Ballet, by C.W. Beaumont, The Studio Ltd., 1937.

“Ballet…” Beaumont stressed, “is a composite branch of the Theatre in which choreography, music, and painting each and all play their part.” 

Cecil Beaton. I think of Beaton as a multiple Oscar winner: Best Costume Design, Gigi, 1958; and Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design, My Fair Lady, 1964. He also received Tony Awards for Best Costume Design for Quadrille, 1955; My Fair Lady, 1957; Saratoga, 1960; and Coco, 1970. He also earned a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, 1960; and Knighthood in 1970.

Sir Cecil Walter Hardy Beaton, 1904–1980, British fashion polymath. Portrait by James Lafayette, c. 1923.

Beaton designed the settings and costumes for Le Pavillon, a ballet to the music of Borodine, presented by the Ballet Russes, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 1936. 

Le Pavillon, 1936, setting and costumes by Cecil Beaton. These and following images from Design for the Ballet.

Apparitions was another Beaton-designed ballet, this one  to the music of Franz Liszt, presented by Vic-Wells Ballet, Sadler’s Wells Theatre, 1936.

Apparitions, 1936, settings and costumes by Cecil Beaton.

Chanel. The name “Chanel” is a familiar fashion brand described by Wikipedia as “popularizing a sporty, casual chic as the feminine standard of style” in the post-World War I era. 

Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel, 1883–1971, French fashion designer and businesswoman. 

In 1924, Chanel designed the costumes for Le Train Bleu, Jean Cocteau’s ballet to the music of Darius Milhaud, presented by Diaghilev, at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées.

Le Train Bleu, 1924, costumes by Chanel.

The real train has already made two appearances here at SimanaitisSays: “Le Train Bleu” and “Barnato’s Blue Train Bentley(s).”

Joan Miró. As noted by Britannica, Joan Miró was “a Catalan painter who combined abstract art with Surrealist fantasy.” 

Joan Miró i Ferrà, 1893–1983, Catalan painter, sculptor, and ceramicist. Portrait by Carl Van Vechten, 1935.

In 1932, Miró designed the settings and costumes for Jeux d’Enfants, a ballet set to the music of Georges Bizet, presented by Les Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, Théâtre de Monte Carlo. 

Jeux d’Enfants, 1932, settings and costumes by Joan Miró.

What fun to see ballet without its traditional backdrops, tutus, and leotards. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022 


  1. jguenther5
    May 10, 2022

    My sister was offered to join a traveling ballet company for a tour of Japan with her instructor. She declined, which I thought was a mistake. An earlier instructor had spent the war on Jersey, and briefly had been a guest of the Gestapo, there.

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