Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Kim's Thankful Praise

Sometimes, one of my clients wants something other than what I typically create.  Many times, these  things are what I like to think of as "unicorns," because it can be hard to define exactly what is needed, and the goal can be a moving one.  In this case, Kim wanted a gown for a Theaters Arts piece.  Usually, I encourage dancers to purchase practice clothing for things like this, (I often add sleeves or embellishment) since the intended purpose of the costume is limited to one unique number and rarely re-sellable, or re-usable.  Custom dance wear is expensive, and I encourage my clients to think about resale value as we design.  So I encouraged Kim to think in terms of re-use, as a more traditional ballgown, with the addition of embellishment and sparkle, when she was through performing the Theater Arts piece.

In Kim's case, the Theater Arts piece was deeply personal, and important to her.  And she really wanted something special to dance in.  The piece is about her return to ballroom competition, following a health scare, that might have made it impossible to dance again.  She wanted something soft, fluid, and beautiful.  Even the choreography was a little bit "unicorn-ish" and hard to describe.  She referred to it as a waltz, although the music was in 4/4 time.  But I appreciated what she meant when I saw the work.  It was full of spirally, turning, waltzy action, and without sound, I might have thought it WAS a waltz.  The piece is also praise to God for her recovery, so there was is a hint of spirituality to bring out visually.  We tried to use color to represent "heavenly", and "angelic" with our gentle crystal blue.   And texturally, we also kept everything soft and cloud-like.

Here, she is performing the piece last April, when the gown was made.  Which tells you how far behind I am in my blogging!  But a pause in my work allows time, so I will take advantage of it.
Theater Arts pieces frequently involve a story, lifts, and other movement that requires well-fit clothing, and fabrics that are both not sticky, and not slippery.  The character in this story is Kim as a ballroom dancer, simply presented, joyful in being able to move and be physical in an easy, happy way.  But I think, with the addition of rhinestones and more specific focus, the gown can also grow into being a more traditional ballgown when the piece it was created for is put to rest.
Thank you so much Kim, for letting me be a part of your telling of this story, essentially liturgical dance, with a ballroom twist.  And thank you too for the beautiful photos you provided for me.  They tell the story of the gown MUCH better than my traditional studio stills.  I am thrilled that you are dancing again, and glad to be a part of that!  And a final thank you to Pro Scott Anderson, who appears here with Kim, and created this lovely piece for her with the assistance of his beautiful daughter, Megan Anderson.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Tracy's Elegance

Usually, Tracy arrives at her design meetings with tremendous preparation and forethought.  But this time, she had just one goal in mind.  A new gown for International Standard Ballroom that would be the epitome of elegance and sophistication.  But she had no images. 

And she also had an idea that the gown might black.  This can be a dangerous choice, if you are not a very well-known dancer, because by default all the gentlemen on the floor are wearing black or midnight blue, with only rare exceptions, and the danger of blending in and not being seen in large heats is very real.

In Standard, the competing is done entirely in closed hold.  The lady dances in front of the gentleman, slightly offset to his right side, and does not separate from him while dancing. So the back of the gown is as important as the front, if not more so, since the back is seen exclusively, except between dances, when the couple separates.   His hand covers her right shoulder blade (or thereabouts) and so, the right side of the back is the best place for sparkle and detail.  In this case, his hand fits beneath the epaulette, and is partially masked by the generous wing.

As we hunted through fabric catalogs and looked at current styles published by my favorite supplier, we happened across a gown that seemed to have many of the attributes we were talking about.  It was black, but also had some white.  It was intensely sparkly, to help it stand apart from all the tailsuits on the floor.  And it was certainly elegant.  With that as a basis for action, we made minor adjustments to accomodate Tracy's specific needs, and had a design we both thought was a just right fit for our goal.
Generally, Made for Movement gowns are unique, but I have learned in 26 years of designing for dancers that there is nothing entirely new under the sun, and since fashion and clothing are not subject to copyright, there is no real reason to avoid creating something similar in style to existing gowns.  I usually prefer not to copy exactly, but this is very similar to the image we stumbled across.  I think personal fit factors strongly into this equation, and I also think trends and fashion dictate what silhouettes are desirable, and what colors are available for use in fabrics each year.  What is hot this year is something that every dancer wants, and at some point following a fashion trend blurs the lines of individual designs.

Tracy says "I love the boldness of the gown - people say it's unlike anything they've seen in Standard. And I love the volume of the skirt. People also said Scott and I look great together in it because we're both all in black and white. And he brought out his tailsuit for the occasion."

So, Tracy has a gown she loves, elegant, visible, and beautiful.  And we were thrilled to make it!  Now that she has a new Smooth gown, and a dedicated Standard gown, I am hoping that a new Rhythm gown might be on tap for 2014!