Opening Ceremony's Call to Action

Opening Ceremony x The New York City Ballet - H 2017
Paul Kolnik

At the New York City Ballet Saturday night, Carol Lim and Humberto Leon offered up a spring 2017 collection in step with the times.

Opening Ceremony's collaboration Saturday night on Justin Peck’s latest work for the New York City Ballet, “The Times Are Racing,” certainly felt timely. 

The third ballet on the evening’s program at Lincoln Center was an uplifting, often joyful ode to how friends and strangers alike run into each other in a bustling melting pot of a city like New York.

It marked the third collaboration between Peck, the New York City ballet’s resident choreographer, and the co-founders of the popular American fashion label Opening Ceremony, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim.

“Carol and I are culture nerds,” Leon explained. “We’ve always felt like Opening Ceremony lent itself to all different types of culture: film, music, ballet, theater …”

“Food,” Lim interjected.

Solange, Claire Danes, Hugh Dancy, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard were among those to join Leon and Lim for Saturday’s performance.

The clothes worn by the dancers combined classic ideas of American sportswear with a sense of ease and movement equally suited to the Lincoln Center stage and traversing Columbus Avenue outside. Four trench coats enjoyed a highlighted moment. “It’s really rare to see outerwear in a ballet,” Leon said. “Justin wanted costumes that felt like real people on the streets, and we knew it would be the most real if the collection was actually for sale.” Pieces seen onstage, together with other looks comprising the entire spring 2017 collection, became available for purchase on Opening Ceremony’s website Sunday morning.

A group of T-shirts stood out, in poppy colors of yellow, purple or red, emblazoned with the words “Fight,” “Unite,” “Change,” and “Defy.” The T-shirts took on deeper meaning when, during the second intermission, people checking their phones began sharing news of a Brooklyn court’s stay of Donald Trump’s executive order banning Muslim refugees from seven countries. In the Lincoln Center audience, a few cheers rang out, as well as some high-fives. 


@justin_peck The Times Are Racing #defy @openingceremony

A photo posted by Humberto Leon (@humbertotoo) on

“We call them action words,” Leon explained of the T-shirt slogans. “With all these amazing kids onstage, it was about empowering youth and giving youth a voice. Those pieces were meant to be this call to action, the idea of giving freedom to each and every individual.”

“That was very deliberate,” Lim agreed.

This likely won’t be the last of the collabs between the New York City Ballet and Opening Ceremony, but Leon admitted that “The Times Are Racing” feels decidedly special.

“Justin has become a friend now, and we met the day after the election, and we were pretty bummed,” he said. “We had started working on this about 10 months ago, but out of that moment, we shifted things a little. What’s great about this piece is that it debuted four days after the inauguration, while all this stuff was happening; but 20 or 30 years from now, this ballet will still be performed, and these clothes will be part of it. That definitely means something.”