Costumes enter the creative process at varying times depending on a choreographer's process. In most of my choreography prior to "Chiaroscuro," I had waited until the majority of the piece was finished before beginning to search for costume options. However, in a new way of working for me, the costumes for "Chiaroscuro" were the very first thing I focused on in the creative process. Their intrinsic connection to the choreography soon began to unfold through a very interesting coincidence.
In early May 2022, I had just scheduled a summer season of performances and needed to submit publicity photos to the performance venues. At this time, though, I hadn't started working with a cast yet, nor had the choreography been developed. I happened to be looking through the costume closet at Berkshire Pulse (while looking for costumes for my students for their spring performance) and came across these elegant, long, dresses in jewel tones. I knew that I wanted to use these dresses in my upcoming choreography, but how exactly was yet to be determined.
Fast forward to a few days later while Veronica Bone, Jordyn Cormier, and I were doing a publicity photoshoot with Karen Karlberg. We're wearing the dresses. The inspiration for the choreography was still in the works, but I knew these dresses were involved.
A week or two after our photoshoot, I had decided that I was interested in creating a Baroque music and movement study through a contemporary lens. As part of my research, I was exploring Baroque art and sculptures and truly stumbled on the painting, Tailleur pour dames, by Remedios Varo.
The painting immediately intrigued me with it's complexity. The detail and nuance of each character in the scene was inspiring. After studying the scene for a bit, I noticed that the three women on the right of the painting were wearing dresses of the same three colors that Veronica, Jordyn, and myself were wearing in our photoshoot.
The style of the dresses and the setting of our photography was in such a similar essence to the painting that I thought it had to be more than just a coincidence. I continued studying this painting and created solos for each character in the painting, as well as worked with the dancers to create motifs reflective of the characters and their qualities.
A special element I learned about the dresses was that they were made by Bettina Montano, the Founder and Artistic Director at Berkshire Pulse. Learning this unique connection that these dresses had to Bettina and Berkshire Pulse was particularly exciting since Berkshire Pulse is where we rehearsed and created "Chiaroscuro." Bettina is also a huge supporter of emerging artists in our community.
In the development of "Chiaroscuro," the costumes were the first element of the creative process. In my personal work as a choreographer, this was a first for me. The costume informed thematic elements and movement motifs (through the use of the dress and sash fabric), as well as coincided with Varo's Tailleur pour dames painting.
With the costume coming into the work so early in the process, I enjoyed how my perspective on movement creation shifted to think about the element of costuming not only as a visual effect, but also as catalyst for movement.
Pictured above from left to right: Jordyn Cormier (purple dress), Fiona Scruggs (red dress), Veronica Bone (silver dress). Photo credits: Karen Karlberg