a resistance ballet by justin peck and opening ceremony

With costumes inspired by Ellis Island and public protest, and music by electronic mastermind Dan Deacon.

by Alice Newell-Hanson
30 January 2017, 5:30pm

Photography Erin Baiano

Opening Ceremony has been flipping the script on collection presentations since the brand's very first fashion week event, in 2013: a Fast and the Furious-style production in a riverside warehouse complete with Lambourghinis and a front-row appearance by Rihanna. In 2014, Carol Lim and Humberto Leon even put on a play at Lincoln Center, written by Jonah Hill and Spike Jonze. For spring/summer 17, they hosted a political beauty pageant.

Last Saturday night, Opening Ceremony returned to Lincoln Center, but for a different kind of performance: a ballet, choreographed by 29-year-old New York City Ballet protégé Justin Peck.

Photography Paul Kolnick

Leon designed the costumes for Peck's piece, "The Times Are Racing," in collaboration with the choreographer. And the dance itself helped inspire Opening Ceremony's fall/winter 17 collection. The lookbook was released the following day and, in a fittingly modern move, you can already pre-order pieces at Opening Ceremony stores.

Photography Paul Kolnick

To get an idea of the ballet's energy, know that the dancers traded in their pointe shoes for sneakers. The ensemble wore white high-tops or white tennis shoes that looked a lot like Opening Ceremony's beloved Keds (a brand OC has collaborated with throughout its 15-year history). The choreography mixed classical ballet with tap and jazz. And in keeping with the urban 21st-century vibe (the piece was inspired by chance city encounters), dancers flipped and dipped like subway "Show Time" breakdancers in some sequences.

Photography Paul Kolnick

There were also no tutus. If you thought it would be impossible to do an elaborate, high-energy tap routine in a pair of jeans, you'd be wrong. Peck and fellow lead dancer Robert Fairchild carried out high-flying, heel-clicking duets in blue jeans and simple white tank tops. The denim was an ode to classic Americana and appeared in other costumes in the form of Daisy Duke shorts and a barn jacket patched with roses and rural southern motifs.

Photography Paul Kolnick

One dancer wore a pair of workmen's overalls (a la Carhartt), styled over a grey hoodie. It was a look you'd more commonly see on the L train to Bushwick than on stage at Lincoln Center, but it felt totally in keeping with the eclectic vision of contemporary reality the costumes and movements presented. In the mesmerizing full-ensemble sections of the piece, dancers whirled in and out of moving human chains, dissolving and reforming connections in dynamic new constellations. Pin-stripe pants met with hoodies met with raincoats and patterned shirt dresses (the prints of which were inspired by the the work of W.W. Denslow, illustrator of The Wizard of Oz). The mix felt as real as the assortment of looks you'd find in an actual New York subway car.

Photography Erin Baiano

The music Peck chose was also a celebration of American diversity. Dan Deacon's pulsating 2012 album America gave "The Times Are Racing" a glitchy, glistening energy. Deacon has described the record as "political" — its tracks were inspired by his many road trips across the States — and its themes of political anxiety were made explicit in Leon's costumes. He printed cutoff sweatshirts with the words "PROTEST," "DEFY," and "SHOUT." On Saturday, Americans at airports across the country had protested our president's xenophobic, Islamophobic travel ban. The performance couldn't have communicated a clearer or more urgent message of resistance.

Related: Opening Ceremony's founders on how Esprit changed fashion (and the world)

Photography Erin Baiano


Text Alice Newell-Hanson

Opening Ceremony
dan deacon
Humberto Leon
new york city ballet
justin peck
fall/winter 17
the times are racing