Breaking news: Atlanta Ballet will co-produce work on the life of Coco Chanel

The Atlanta Ballet, in conjunction with the Hong Kong Ballet and Queensland Ballet, is co-producing a work about fashion icon Coco Chanel. The piece will debut this month in Hong Kong and then receive its North American premiere next February with Atlanta Ballet. It will be produced in Australia by the Queensland Ballet in the fall of 2024.

The ballet was choreographed by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, the Belgian-Colombian dance maker who has created more than 100 works for companies around the world. Her piece, Requiem for a Rose, was produced by Atlanta Ballet in 2013. More recently, Ballet Hispánico performed her work Linea Recta (Straight Line) at the Rialto Center for the Arts in 2019.

Coco Chanel: The Life of a Fashion Icon will delve into the complex life of one of fashion’s most intriguing figures. The French-born Chanel built a fashion empire and became one of the most recognized people in the world. She was the only fashion designer included in Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

But she also was antisemitic and a recent book found declassified documents from World War II that revealed she collaborated with the Nazi intelligence service during the German occupation of France.

Ochoa’s full-length narrative ballet will chronicle Chanel’s life and polarizing reputation.

“I am interested in telling stories about strong historical women,” Ochoa said in a press release. “Behind the surface of a strong woman, there is always a hidden emotional story full of hardships and flaws.”

Atlanta Ballet Artistic Director Gennadi Nedvigin said it is an honor to present the North American premiere of the piece. “Annabelle is a brilliant choreographer and thoughtful storyteller,” he said in the release. “The ballet portrays a historical figure with a past that was both inspiring and problematic, so we want to go beyond the stage with meaningful partnerships and educational resources to help contextualize Chanel’s story.”

The ballet will partner with the Breman Jewish Heritage Museum for programming that will explore the impact of Chanel’s antisemitism and collaboration with the Nazis.

There will also be programming developed with the Savannah College of Art and Design’s SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film to look at Chanel’s impact on the fashion industry.

In addition to Ochoa, artistic collaboration was provided by Nancy Meckler, and Jérôme Kaplan designed the set and costumes. The original score is by Peter Salem, who composed the music for Helen Pickett’s acclaimed Camino Real for Atlanta Ballet’s world premiere of that work in 2015.

 The Atlanta Ballet Orchestra will perform Salem’s music live at the North American premiere.