Yesterday, a dress rehearsal was held for Paul McCartney’s much-anticipated ballet, Ocean’s Kingdom, which premieres at the New York City Ballet’s fall gala tomorrow. As we observed the practice at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater, we were mesmerized by not only the dancing – but the costumes. And no wonder; they were created by acclaimed designer Stella McCartney who, like us, watched her pieces come to life on stage for the first time. “I’ve never seen everything together before today,” McCartney told us afterward. “I’d think, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize those characters were coming with those characters.’ When I was designing, I saw the Terra punks as one visual, not mixed in among the fish.”
McCartney’s “Terra punks” are what her father, Sir Paul, calls the baddies – a gang of land-dwellers ruled by the evil King Terra. Fish and other underwater creatures are part of the good King Ocean’s domain. Conflict ensues when King Terra’s son, Prince Stone (Robert Fairchild, pictured above), falls for King Ocean’s daughter, Princess Honorata (Sara Mearns, also above).
While the Terra punks have a tattooed look – black tribal patterns over flesh-toned mesh – the community of scales and fins are draped in colorful tie-dye and striped patterns. “Dad had a very strong visual of how he saw the characters within the music he was writing, so I worked within that framework,” says McCartney.
Those guidelines were completely different than what she’s used to. “On the runway, models don’t lift their legs up over their heads – but with ballerinas you have to take that performance aspect into account,” says McCartney. “My runway clothes are also quite effortless and realistic and designed to be worn; the pieces for Ocean’s Kingdom are more theatrical.”
Makeup is more dramatic too. Though the dancers have fresh faces to begin with – thanks to skin care guru Sunday Riley’s nourishing cleanser and serums – they get graphic makeovers, courtesy of Pat McGrath.
“I’ve worked with Pat for many years – I love her and I think she’s incredible,” says McCartney. “When she does makeup for my shows, I always joke and say, ‘You know, Pat, you can clock off in ten minutes because we don’t have any makeup – again!’ So it was nice for me to do something a little theatrical for her. I don’t really get the chance to do that for my shows because it’s not right for the brand.”
Though the ballet’s bold makeup isn’t what the Stella girl would wear, McCartney admits that some of its costumes might be on point. “I’m not doing fish this summer – there will be no fish prints at my show in two weeks,” she says with a laugh. “But you know, seeing the clothes today, there were moments where I thought, ‘That jacket looks great – I could do that jacket if I just did this, that, and the other.’ I didn’t think I’d be able to say that about this project – I thought it would be a one-off and wouldn’t influence anything I did on the runway. But you never know! Never say never.”
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