Erdem, En Pointe

The Royal Ballet, London

Photography by Erdem Moralioglu

The term ‘Corybantic’ derives from the Greek Korybantes — armed and crested attendants of the goddess Cybele known for their wild, ecstatic dances. Drawing inspiration from this mythology, English choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s Corybantic Games for the Royal Ballet’s 2018 programme wove a narrative that delved into the depths of human emotions and the physicality of movement. Set against Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade after Plato’s “Symposium”, the ballet notably featured costumes designed by A#24 curator Erdem Moralioglu, and marked the designer’s first foray into menswear.

Ballet and fashion have long been intertwined, with the relationship blossoming in French couture upon the 1909 arrival of the Ballets Russes in Paris. Figures at the foundation of fashion, such as Paul Poiret and Jeanne Lanvin, were immediately drawn to the legerity and freedom of movement exemplified by the ballet, eschewing the corset which was still popular at the dawn the 20th century. The ballerina became a muse, her perfect form and beauty resonating throughout Paris and inspiring notions of femininity — including those of Christian Dior. The legendary French designer’s New Look gave many nods to ballet, an aesthetic appreciation that was extended to his successor Yves Saint Laurent. Today, contemporary fashion continues to shape and be shaped by ballet, from A#13 curator Iris Van Herpen’s collaboration with the Dutch National Ballet to Miu Miu’s Autumn Winter 2022 precipitation of ‘Balletcore’.

Returning to the Royal Opera House stage in 2023, the second rendition of Corybantic Games revives the collaboration between Erdem Moralioglu and the Royal Ballet, with the new costumes designed in a creative partnership with Christopher Wheeldon. Drawn to the grace and elegance exhibited by the ballet since childhood, Erdem’s homage to the discipline is expressed in A Magazine Curated By Erdem, through a portfolio of Royal Ballet danseurs photographed on medium format by the designer himself.

Behind-the-scenes imagery of 2023 Corybantic Games fittings, also photographed by Erdem, complements an exclusive interview below.

Photography by Erdem Moralioglu

After a five year gap, Corybantic Games is back at the Royal Opera House. How does this second iteration differ in design from the first? 
I was really excited to update the costumes for this run of Corybantic Games for the Royal Opera House. For the female dancers, I played more with the concept of 1950s underpinnings with the costumes, adding girdles and elements of boning in the mid-section. The men’s design was all about stripping the costumes back and giving a sense of nakedness against the graphic lines.

What does this particular ballet mean to you?

It was a completely new ballet when I first created the costumes in 2018, and that’s what made it so exciting. I was working so closely with Christopher Wheeldon as he created the piece, it was incredible see an entirely new performance come together and to be part of it.

L-R: Matthew Ball, Fumi Kaneko, Luca Acri of the Royal Ballet.


Can you tell us more about the garments, their construction and inspiration? 

The ballet itself is set to a piece of music by Leonard Bernstein, Serenade, (After Plato’s Symposium), from the 1950s. I was thinking a lot about the structure of 50s underpinnings, corsetry and girdles but offsetting those elements against something much more graphic, thick black velvet ribbons marking a line through the space giving a Grecian sense of symmetry.

How was the experience of collaborating with Christopher Wheeldon? 

It was so wonderful. I have always been such a fan of Christopher’s work. He is extraordinary. Over the years I have become friends with him and would invite him to my shows, so to have the opportunity to create costumes for a brand new piece of his was truly thrilling.

Reece Clarke of the Royal Ballet

How does your design process change when focusing on ballet costumes? 

There were so many more practical considerations. The costumes are bespoke to every dancer’s body and they need to withstand a performance every evening. They have to have a durability but I also wanted to convey a delicateness. Of course, movement is the most important consideration, and there is nothing more exciting than seeing a dancer perform in something you’ve designed.

How has your relationship with the Royal Ballet grown over the years, from spectating to designing?

The Royal Ballet is one of the most important institutions in the world. Kevin O’Hare, the director, is a genius. His vision for the future of the ballet is so brilliant and it was such a privilege to be a part of a new work. The collaboration with the Royal Ballet continued with my Autumn Winter 2021 collection as I explored the relationship between Rudolph Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn who both danced as part of the company. Ed Watson, the beautiful ex-Principal Dancer also choreographed the show.

Corybantic Games runs alongside Wayne McGregor’s Untitled (2023) and Kenneth McMillan’s Anastasia Act III from June 9-17 at the Royal Opera House, London.

A Magazine Curated By Erdem (2022)

A Magazine Curated By Erdem (2022)

A Magazine Curated By Erdem (2022)

A Magazine Curated By Erdem (2022)

A Magazine Curated By Erdem (2022)




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