In previous posts we often looked at the links between dance and fashion, a connection that started with the Ballets Russes and that went on to inspire in more recent years collaborations between fashion houses, designers or brands and famous corps de ballet.
Throughout the decades we have seen several choreographers closely working with fashion designers: Martha Graham designed her costumes with the help of Halston who, in turn, considered himself as "Martha's hands"; Maurice Béjart and Versace were good friends and extraordinary collaborators; Jean Paul Gaultier's fashion semantics entered Régine Chopinot's performances creating a new visual language of dance.
While the trend continues, there is one important change that is worth mentioning: up until a few years ago this link was more about costuming the body in a striking way, but now body movements have radically transformed, and choreographers are both inspired by what the dancers are wearing, while influencing in return fashion.
New functional dynamics are currently being explored on many stages or on films uploaded on the Internet. These movements are at times inspired by the frantic and complex times we are living in, but also by modern themes such as society, technology or science.
Maybe inspired by last year's "Dance & Fashion" exhibition at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, AnOther Magazine recently organised a project entitled "MOVEment".
Launched by Dazed group co-founder Jefferson Hack and created in collaboration with Sadler's Wells, the project combining fashion, dance and cinema consists in seven fashion houses creating bespoke costumes for seven specially choreographed performances, interpreted for the screen by seven directors.
Now available online, the films were premiered at Sadler's Wells' Lilian Baylis Studio in April, followed by a live performance of "Two", performed by Russell Maliphant Company Dancer Carys Staton, with music by Andy Cowton.
Some pieces work better than others: choreographed and performed by Paris Opera ballerina Marie-Agnès Gillot in a costume by Alexander McQueen, the film directed by Daniel Askill is very physical and tackles the theme of transformation and metamorphosis with Gillot turning at the very end of the film into a dark flying angel.
The costumes by Calvin Klein Collection contribute to give a further architectural note to Daniel Arsham's film set in a modernist environment and featuring a performance by Julie Kent and Jonah Bokaer (who also choreographed the piece).
Warren Du Preez and Nick Thornton Jones's film - with a performance by Carys Staton, choreography by Russell Maliphant and costumes by Iris van Herpen - could almost be interpreted as a darkly fashion representation of the Big Bang revealing not how the universe developed, but how a dress is created, with the dancer suspended in space and time and clad in a digital costume.
In some films the focus on the body gradually leaves more space to the costumes: in Ruth Hogben's filmic interpretation of the performance by Louis McMiller, Daniela Neugebauer, James Pett, and Fukiko Takase with choreography by Wayne McGregor and designs by Gareth Pugh, the movement of drinking straws forming the costume becomes more mesmerising than the actual choreography.
Fashion-wise not everything worked too well: Prada's bourgeois clothes look forced upon the beautiful piece choreographed and performed by the dancers of Tanztheater Wuppertal in the film directed by Kevin Frilet and set in a derelict theatre.
Dance-wise this is definitely the best piece of the septet with delicate duets and poetical music, and while the garments are supposed to convey a genderless neutrality between male and female dancers, they also add an unnecessary aura of coldness to an otherwise sensual choreography.
The energetic performance by Aya & Bambi, with choreography by Aya Sato and Ryan Heffington and costumes by Chalayan, turned Jacob Sutton's film into a painfully short and somehow repetitive music video.
Sponsoring from Ford Vignale meant instead that the film by Matthew Donaldson with a performance by Nevena Jovanovic, choreography by Jasmin Vardimon and a beautiful sculptural headpiece suspended between a nun's veil and an architectural piece (think Pasolini's Decameron meets Pierre Cardin...) by Stephen Jones Millinery, ended up looking like an extended car advert (albeit a stylish one, but still a car advert...).
The main aim of this project may be combining fashion and dance, but, rather than being about dance costuming, it emphases the aspect of body moving and therefore the choreography.
Interestingly enough, the focus has been on rather innovative dance routines also in music videos with certain artists introducing new ideas about body image.
Choreography has so far played a major role in the latest videos accompanying Australian singer and songwriter Sia's tracks. When "Chandelier" was released last year, most critics were mesmerised by the amazingly inventive dance routine (the tortured and deranged version of Nadine Bommer’s happy and cute "Cartoon Girl" choreography interpreted by Gaya Bommer Yemini at the 2011 Youth America Grand Prix...) choreographed by Los Angeles-based Ryan Heffington and performed by 11-year-old reality TV star Maddie Zeigler who, clad in a very basic nude leotard and a blonde wig, acrobatically flipped and kicked, frantically jumped and mimed, interacting with whatever desolate object - walls, floors, door frames, mattresses and tables - she encountered on her path.
Heffington also came up with the choreograph for Sia's "Elastic Heart" wth a cage-fight between Shia LaBeouf and Maddie Ziegler and more recently worked again with Ziegler on Sia's "Big Girls Cry".
Heffington's choreographies for these videos could be seen as physical yet abstract representations of modern anxieties, social phobias and other assorted issues generated by our modern society, styled image-wise in a rather basic way as the simple leotard has become a new minimalist protagonist that helps people refocusing on the song/the body movements, leaving behing grand costumes à la Lady Gaga.
Will the trend continue and influence fashion on a deeper level? We'll see, in the meantime 'Shame' - from Young Fathers's "White Men Are Black Men Too" - is another video based on physicality and body-wrenching movements.
The video (directed by Jeremy Cole) features an injured young man (Joshua Hubbard) wearing a tank top and tracksuit bottoms - an ensemble that points towards the uniform of disenfranchised youth - running down solitary roads and eventually throwing himself in an intensive and liberating dance routine (choreographed by Holly Blakey).
Let's hope that fashion learns a new lesson from these intense choreographies that revolve around body mechanics rather than on grand costumes - liberating itself from its ingrained elitist pretentiousness in favour of more functional approaches.
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