Much like the vibrant plumage of a peacock or the neon skin of a dart frog, fashion has long played an integral role in human communication. During the Baroque era in particular, high fashion was a cornerstone of society: it not only communicated who was who in the courts of monarchs such as Louis XIV, it was also a way for the aristocracy to advance themselves within the court. In other words, fashion was the key to success.
In the 21st century, the word “extra” is applied to anything deemed “excessive” or “overly dramatic”; Rihanna’s “Pope Dress,” which she wore to the 2018 MET Gala, could be described as “extra.” The fashion of the Baroque era makes modern “extra” fashion seem mundane, and it is this definition of clothing that the fourth-year Costume Studies students of the Fountain School of Performing Arts have been given license to play with since September. And now, their work is ready to be showcased in an evening of entertainment entitled The Grand Parade.
In the words of Costume Studies professor Anneke Henderson, “the evening will feature the juxtaposition of lush period costuming, movement, and design, paired with the rhythmic and colourful music of Jacob Caines and the Wind Ensemble, including vocal music and original student compositions.”
“The music and costumes for Grand Parade have been connected since we started talking about the show a year ago,” says Wind Ensemble director Jacob Caines. “The music has been chosen and written as a foil to the opulent and rich costumes. The Costume Studies students have created ornate and beautiful works of art, and I wanted to pick music that was in stark contrast to that. By highlighting music of a very different style, I hope that the opulence of the costumes is even more splendid.”
Julia MacVicar will also be performing a piece of music from the French Baroque period, and according to Caines it “serves as a way to connect the music to the costumes.”
Powerful, original compositions
The Wind Ensemble will be presenting six pieces in total, four of which are original compositions by the Fountain School’s composition majors. Isabelle Riche describes her contribution, “Elon Musk Loses His Mind,” as a piece which “pokes fun at the absurdity of the media and the people in it who take themselves too seriously.” Caines has also contributed an original piece to The Grand Parade, written specifically to allow the musicians and the costume studies students to “interact and perform together.”
For Costume Studies students Shaney Kille and Claire Hartke, The Grand Parade is an opportunity for their work to take centre stage. “Most of the time in this program, we’re creating costumes for the Fountain School’s productions," says Kille. “While that always offers the challenge of working with designers and bringing their dreams to life, there is not as much space for our own creativity.”
“Though our past creations have spent plenty of time in the FSPA limelight, this event showcases the Costume Studies program and our hard work,” adds Hartke. Henderson says that, “in a traditional theatre presentation (play or opera), costume supports the actor and story development and is most successful when it does not distract from the action on stage. In the context of this project, Costume Studies students will see their work in equal standing to the other performers, the musicians.”
Designing the costumes
Not only will the work of the students take centre stage, but the students themselves will model their 18th-century costume masterpieces.
The process of creating such elaborate costumes is a grueling one. Hundreds of hours have been invested by each individual student in a single garment.
“The sewing process can…be very frustrating at times,” says Kille, who spent 17 hours hand sewing eyelets for her gown — a process which caused her fingers “to hurt for a week afterwards because the fabric is so tough.”
It’s not only the fine details which pose a significant challenge.
“Every structural element is integral to the final garment,” says Hartke, but such elaborate gowns are (in Kille’s own words) a “‘make it up as you go’ project. I know all of the steps that must be taken, and I know what I want the final product to look like, but it’s figuring out all the connecting steps while also inputting my own creativity into the project that can take a lot of time. I have to try things multiple ways before being happy with the outcome.”
A spectacular scene
"The Grand Parade will be a spectacular scene,” says Hartke. “The combination of vibrant music and extravagant 18th-century gowns creates an engaging dialogue between historical and contemporary arts. As we parade around to colourful rhythms, it will be a captivating experience for all.” Kille jokingly adds that, “at times it felt like this project would never end; we have been working on it since September. But I know that once we’re onstage, all the literal blood, sweat, and tears will be worth it.”
“People should come see The Grand Parade because it is one of the most unique things we’ve ever programmed,” Caines says excitedly. “We have succeeded in bringing together several disciplines and groups that rarely get to work together. The show is exciting, beautiful, energetic, and completely unlike any wind ensemble show or fashion show anyone has ever seen. That I can promise!”
The Grand Parade, which closes the Fountain School’s 2018-19 season, will be performed April 5 and 6 at 7:30 p.m. at Pier 21 in the Kenneth C. Rowe Hall. As of press time, Saturday night’s show is already sold out, though some tickets for Friday night’s show are still available from the Dalhousie Arts Centre Box Office.
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