On Ballet and Tutu Design: Jean Lamprell and Brad Rosenstein

Dying Swan tutu for Galina Panova, designed & made by Jean Lamprell
(credit, http://ballettutu.com)

Big mistake! I go to the de Young Museum ostensibly to see a particular show or painting (in this instance, I went to see Vermeer’s, Girl With a Pearl Earring) but first, I stop in to see what/who is on in the Artist Studio. Therein lies the mistake: I get taken in by what’s going on there and so, I have difficulty focusing on the show that brought me to the museum in the first place. It turns out that present day masters can be way more interesting than old masters. Not always, but in Jean Lamprell’s case, definitely!

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Pink tutu in Ballet Costume Atelier, de Young Museum, 2013

There are two exquisite tutus, one white and silver, the other pink and gold, housed along a long wall in the gallery. The curator has turned the studio into an atelier and it will remain that way until Jean has completed her artist’s residence in the Kimbrall Gallery. I don’t know much about ballet but I know beauty when I see it. No matter the art form, I enjoy learning about the process, the technique, and the history behind the art. So when Brad Rosenstein came over to welcome me and invite me back for Jean’s 2:00 p.m. presentation, I kindly declined. I had, afterall, tickets to the 2:00-3:00 p.m. showing of the old Dutch masters and the Vermeer girl. But as I made my way through the Dutch exhibition, my mind kept wandering back to the atelier upstairs. So I rushed through the show, spending only a few minutes with the girl, and many more with some old friends (other Vermeers and several Rembrandts)I had encountered awhile ago in New York. Sorry, old Dutch masters: I  had to go back to see what I was missing and to see what I could learn about the art behind the creation of the exquisite costumes, tutus and gowns for the ballet. Oh Brad, you sold me on the show! C’est magnifique.

Jean is remaking the Juliet dress that she made for the Nureyev Romeo and Juliet ballet. Of course, Brad had to whet my appetite further, telling me that Jean absolutely had to finish making the gown by next Sunday: At that time, a ballerina will be stepping into and performing in the dress. Oh, if only I wasn’t already booked for that day, helping with an earthquake hike up at Los Trancos, I would definitely be there to see the performance. If you can, do go to see it. More information on Jean’s and Brad’s show are to be found at:


The funniest thing I learned from Jean is that early on, when Galina Panova  had just defected from the USSR, Jean “gave Galina the cabbage.” In the design world, leftover material is called cabbage. Since Galina had defected from the USSR, she didn’t have much of her own: Jean used the cabbage to make some exquisite outfits for Galina’s early ballet performances. I wonder if the Dying Swan tutu above is one of the cabbage costumes?


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