Who is Choreographing the Costume Performance? A Discussion on Shared Agency.
The traditional role of the choreographer is to devise the dance performance, whilst the costume designer creates the costume, usually to enhance the aesthetic of the piece. Researching her new book Costume in Performance: Materiality, Culture, and the Body (2017), Barbieri found several examples throughout history of costume preceding and directing the process of choreographing the performance. Conventional approaches to choreography are challenged further by progressive experimental costume performance and the growing incorporation of costume design as part of the devising of ‘total theatre’ pieces.
This presentation will reflect on dance artist and educator Lorraine Smith’s experiences of performance projects with theMA Costume Design for Performance at London College of Fashion, a course which embeds a ‘movement-based approach to the development of costume’ (Barbieri, 2012: 149) and a costume-based approach to methods of devising performance, and the impact its pedagogical approaches have had on her own artistic practice and performance pedagogy.
An analysis of these experiences and wearable sculpture performance project Elizabeth & The Three Sisters (2016) will be used to investigate the collaborative relationship between designer, costume, performer and choreographer/director, and the importance of both the costume and the live body in the creation process. Reference will be made to Jacques Lecoq’s Laboratoire D’Étude du Movement and Mann & Summerlin’s concept of ‘costume as choreographer’ (2016).
The presentation will then examine the collaborative devising process of costume performance, questioning whether agency can be attributed to a single artist or material, concluding with proposed new terminology to encapsulate the experimental practice of creating costume performance where all elements and individuals involved not only have equal agency, but collaborate to form a shared agency that brings connection and coherence to the costume, moving body and environment.
Lorraine Smith is a dance artist and senior lecturer at Teesside University. Lorraine was artistic director/choreographer of Silversmith Dance Theatre (2006-2014) and member of UK Arab dance troupe Al Zaytouna (2007-2014), touring contemporary productions in the UK and internationally. Lorraine graduated from University College Chichester with a 1st Class Degree in Dance Studies, holds a MA in Choreography from TrinityLaban and a PGCHE (HEA Fellowship) from Teesside University. Her passions include devising dance theatre and costume performance, which inform her research into the impact of costume on the performing body, costume as somatic tool, performance pedagogy, identity and ‘otherness’.
David Griffiths for both images.