Prêt à danser
What's on the racks at the Other Dance Festival?
Not all the new fashions you’ll discover this fall will be found in boutiques. Beginning Thursday 16, the ninth annual Other Dance Festival—three weekends of performances, featuring 15 companies—handily shows there are as many approaches to costume design in this city as there are to contemporary dance, the focus of ODF. Here are three works, one from each program, that exemplify this range; the artists walked us through the details.
Week one includes Chasm, performed by Same Planet Different World Dance Theatre
When it came time to dress the couple in crisis at the heart of Chasm, choreographer Liz Burritt decided to keep it simple. As her sons Adam, four months, and Jackson, two and a half, natter in the background, she says, “In this particular scenario, [dancers] Joanna [Rosenthal] and Charlie [Cutler] are their raw, true selves. They’re having a fight in their kitchen on a Saturday morning, or their bedroom on a Thursday night. It’s not glamorous.” Burritt is quick to wax rhapsodic about past experiences with designer Jeff Hancock but felt these characters should appear in the dancers’ own jeans. Rosenthal adds a tank top and Cutler a T-shirt.
Burritt calls it “the choreographer’s eternal struggle: How do you show the body yet clothe it, and in a way that supports what you’re trying to say?”
Week two includes Living Architecture, performed by Breakbone DanceCo.
A first gig costuming dance in 2002—period menswear and a white gown with train for a Hubbard Street piece inspired by Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel’s affair—quickly led to a flood of commissions for Branimira Ivanova. The Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria, native, who followed her mother’s footsteps into fashion design, recently scored a first Jeff nomination for one of 24 shows she costumed during the 2009–10 season. The 33-year-old has collaborated with choreographer Atalee Judy since 2003 and calls working with Judy’s company, Breakbone, “a designer’s dream.”
For Architecture, Judy sketched what she dubs “a steampunk-ish combination” of aviatrix, World War II and geologist references and showed it to Ivanova, who “went at it full-force,” Judy says. Stretch denim, faux leather, quilted cotton and mesh were hand-dyed and combined with neoprene padding ripped out of commercial knee and elbow pads; the garments were then, in Judy’s words, “distressed to hell.”
“They’re my favorite costumes ever,” Judy declares. “I feel like Indiana Jones in mine. It gives me balls! I can dance ten times bigger in it.”
Week three includes Paper Shoes, performed by the Humans
Collin Bunting, 36, is lounging in bed when I call to ask about the tunic, shaggy greaves and backward-facing horse’s head her sister, Rachel, wears during Paper Shoes. Off the bat comes an explanation of how writing poetry prepared her for the kind of thinking costuming requires. “Both deal with metaphor and things on a conceptual level,” she says, adding that costume design allows her to be more daring and playful with color choice. The tunic is made of deep royal blue silk, with two sheer layers on top and a large cutout that exposes the dancer’s spine “like a window to a dream.” The papier-mâché headpiece, made by Mark Bazant, buckles under the chin like a shako and matches bright white accessories Bunting says remind some of a Clydesdale’s legs. “Imagine a shit-ton of yarn covering the calf, really shaky and full—like a grass skirt, but wrapped around your knee.” Everything moves, augmenting her sister’s choreography.
“Seeing the dance beforehand is hugely important,” Bunting says, “how the costume is going to react, what the movement vocabulary is. I’ve made costumes without seeing the movement before. Once.” She laughs. “I’ll never do that again.”
Catch these looks and more at Hamlin Park Fieldhouse Thursday 16 through October 1.