Fashion & the timeless style of Russian Ballet

The love story between fashion and ballet has been one since time immemorial. As two embodied arts forms that are all about the body, the worlds of fashion and ballet are intrinsically linked. With each occupying its own cultural space, Ballet has long been a muse for fashion. The enduring bond between haute couture and ballet goes as far back as the Twenties, when Coco Chanel was so inspired by the Ballets Russes that she ended up designing their costumes. Designers from Yves Saint Laurent to Jacques Fath have looked to the art form for inspiration while the greatest of photographers having loved photographing it for its beauty and magic.

Famous for its elegance and centuries-long history, Russian ballet dates back as early as the 17th century, during the reign of Peter the great. Spectacular and elegant, the costumes of the Russian Ballet still represent a wonderful example of creativity, giving life to a perfect balance between shapes and colors, while sealing what is an undisputed successful union of the sublime and grotesque. For over twenty years, the Russian Ballet amazed Parisian audiences, influencing heavily fashion, habits and trends of the early twentieth century. 20th century fashion would be unimaginable without impresario Sergej Diaghilev's Ballets Russes who transformed ballet into an avant-garde art form in its own right.

With performances that were full of vivid colors, staggeringly intricate costumes and designs from some of the world's most famous artists, The Ballets Russes were undoubtedly the most influential ballet company of the 20th century. Known for its ground-breaking artistic collaborations, Diaghilev worked with Leon Bakst, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Giorgio de' Chirico, Joan Miro, Georges Braque and Coco Chanel. The 'look' of the Ballets Russes has influenced fashion designers from YSL to Erdem. Thanks to the Bolshoi and Vaganova ballet schools, till today Russia produces some of the finest ballerinas in the world.

In a new and beautifully crafted series of ballet photographs, Australian photographer, Paul Giggle, captures the allure of prima ballerinas. Titled '12 Natural Wonders : Russia,' it was inspired by one of Russia's most famous ballet productions, 'Swan Lake'. The editorial features prominent Russian model/actress Gia Skova accompanied by a slew of models like Nastya Gordeyko, Katya Xoroshaya, and Anastasia Zmanovskaya, who embrace a ballerina life posing as delicate nymphs and graceful swans.

Just as ballet and fashion have a profound connection, likewise do Ballerinas and photographers. Both of them make things look easy, while respective audiences do not see the thousands of repetitions on each technique needed to develop such perfection. The images possess a great sense of beauty and sensuality that portrays the confidence and strength of the women displayed. Paul combines the aesthetics of the models and the art of ballet to create a classic and glamorous array of images. This merger of photography and movement makes for exciting viewing, while also offering a few elegant and opulent fashion moments. Looking at the editorial, it is evident that Paul's intention is to capture beauty in a simple manner, while creating timeless images that showcase Russia and its culture.

'For this series I researched paintings and compositions that reflected mood elegance and composition. It is every girls dream to become a ballerina. In Russia, ballerina's are extremely well regarded. The rigorous training and commitment required to become recognized is astonishing and I wanted to photograph images that not only show grace and beauty but also include images that reflect the hard work and discipline required to succeed,' says Paul.

Russia is the fourth installment of Paul's '12 Natural Wonders' calendar project that pays homage to an art form that has won the hearts of many people from all over the world. It follows on from Italia in 2015, Brazil in 2014 and Australia in 2013. Inspired by a lifetime love of Pirelli Calendars, the '12 Natural Wonders' calendar is part of a long-term project taking the internationally acclaimed photographer to a different country each year to photograph beautiful women against amazing landscapes and architecture.

No stranger to capturing rare beauties. Paul cut his teeth as a Publisher and Creative Director in London and also worked as a film director for nine years in Australia directing a music clip for legends INXS and also worldwide Pepsi and Nokia campaigns. He has collaborated with Vogue, GQ, Marie Claire, Pepsi, Nokia, Ford, Hyundai, Proctor and Gamble and many others. He was also one of the first photographers' to ever shoot Queensland born and now international stars Miranda Kerr, Catherine McNeil and Samantha Harris.

This article first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of LOVEFMD magazine.

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