American Ballet

Ballet costume

Introduced to America in the mid-19th century, ballet’s aristocratic persona stood in stark contrast to the democratic ideals and populist affinities of our American culture. In the United States ballet was adopted and reimagined with whimsical feats and physical displays set to music. Immigrants streaming into America in the early 20th century included Russian dancer George Balanchine, who crafted a distinctly new neoclassical style of ballet incorporating musical, emotional, and individual elements.

This display showcased costumes worn by ballerinas Violette Verdy, Marianna Tcherkassky, and Misty Copeland. Verdy’s displayed costume was created in 1976, by former Ballet Russes costumer Barbara Balinksa, for a White House state dinner. Also on view was Tcherkassky’s costume, created by veteran costume designer May Ishimoto in 1977, for her leading role in Giselle. Copeland made history in 2015 when she became the first African American woman to be named the principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre. Her costume was worn that year for her Broadway debut in On the Town.

About the Artifact Walls

Artifact walls, consisting of 275 linear feet of glass-fronted cases lining the central first and second floors, highlight the depth and breadth of the collections. They reflect the Museum's core mission to collect, study, and exhibit objects from our nation's rich and diverse history. This display is one of the special cases that highlight anniversaries, views into the collections, and research findings.