On the occasion of the revival by the Paris Opera Ballet of Angelin Preljocaj’s Le Parc, Corinne Crouy, milliner at the Palais Garnier, reveals some of the secrets of her craft. Within the costume department, she and her team are in charge of the creation of all the hats, head-dresses, tiaras and other forms of headwear designed in the course of the ballet productions. A look back at the hats from Le Parc.
“When creating the costumes in 1994, the designer Hervé Pierre had not envisaged making hats for this production. It was on discovering that a team of milliners worked at the Paris Opera that he designed straw hats, thus bringing an additional touch of elegance to the crinolines worn by the dancers.
I have a very positive memory of our collaboration with Hervé Pierre. We hadn’t worked much with straw until that production and we were aware of the fact that we were taking part in a very beautiful, poetic and sensual production. By the way, we’re still using the same hats from the original production, including the decoration! They were made with old straw that was already in stock at the Opera when the ballet entered the repertoire. Only a few knots and attachments have been reinforced. Each hat is made from ribbons of straw stitched together entirely by hand. When the straw dries out and becomes brittle it is consolidated with silk tulle. If necessary, we adapt the crin to the colour of the dancers’ hair.
A hat for the ballet must be very strong yet as light as possible so as not to hinder the dancers, whilst still staying firmly in place. During fittings, we adjust the ribbons and attachments so that the performers don’t meet with any difficulties on stage and feel as free as possible.
Le Parc is a production with relatively few hats: a dozen three-cornered hats which the dancers get rid of very quickly after coming on stage, and five straw hats. Which isn’t many compared with the productions of Rudolf Nureyev (Cendrillon, Raymonda, Swan Lake, La Bayadère), Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and even Body and Soul by Crystal Pite.
Like those of Le Parc, other hats have also survived the test of time: those of Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet (1984) for example. The head-dresses of Le Chevalier et la demoiselle go back as far as 1945! But our craft has evolved and has revealed new challenges: working with new materials, making hats even more comfortable and practical for the dancers. In short, we always need to be more creative with materials that are evolving whilst respecting the wishes of the production team and the dancers.