DANCE WITH ME: Trust Ralph Rucci to elevate the ballet costume — usually the terrain of stretchy Lycra leotards and frilly tutus — to high art, literally.

“It’s really an haute couture project,” insists Rucci of his latest endeavor, designing the on-stage attire for the American Ballet Theatre’s season opener, “A Musical Portrait of Chuck Close.”

In fact, he has found that Barbara Matera Studio, which produces the company’s costumes, is not unlike a fully functioning atelier. “There were almost nonexistent corrections to be made when I saw their work,” Rucci marvels.

Rucci, who only met with Chuck Close after he had already designed the costumes, was largely inspired by Philip Glass’ score, which he describes as “rather romantic” for the minimalist composer. The three male and three female dancers start out with “almost ecclesiastical,” “monolithic” and “sculptural” costumes made from heavy black duchesse satin. Over the course of the performance, they strip down to black mesh costumes, exploring “blatant sexuality,” according to Rucci.

Hidden in the large black ballgowns is a bit of a surprise for art fans: Rucci has had a Close self-portrait embroidered on interior panels, so the audience will catch glimpses of his face as the dancers move.

A dance fan himself, Rucci would be happy to work on another ballet. “I would love to work with Pina Bausch,” he says, referring to the legendary German choreographer. “I even took out a full-page ad, saying, ‘Will you marry me?'” He has yet to receive a response. “But isn’t it better that way?” wonders Rucci.

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