from Experiencing Dance by Helene Scheff
Costumes and props can do more than just enhance a dance. They can also inspire movement and style. Choose a costume piece or a prop. Improvise and explore movement that is inspired by the costume piece or prop. Arrange this movement into a dance composition or study. Share it with the class. (If your teacher gives you a rubric, make sure you refer to it as you work on your dance composition or study.)
on the bias • tutu
Think about dressing up your dance. What can you do to enhance your work? What do you have to know to work toward a complete production?
As a choreographer producing a dance work, part of your job is to think about costumes. You may never have sewn a button on a shirt, let alone put a garment of any kind together, but think positively and keep it simple. For a dance without a story, you can select a color theme for your dancers. Ask the dancers to supply usable clothing in the necessary colors. Let’s say you are staging a dance or dances about the ocean and the tides. The dancers can wear shades of blue and green with a bit of white (for the foam). If you are also representing the tides, you can use shades of color appropriate for the sun and the moon. They can wear leotards and tights, if available. They can wear T-shirts with shorts, sweat pants, or fl owing skirts. They can be wrapped in flowing cloth. Never doubt the versatility of fabric glue and paper and plastic, especially if it is a one-time performance.
If you are on an even tighter budget, you can look in any resale shop to fi nd anything from skirts and shirts to pants and jackets. Remember, from a distance, the audience to the stage, the look is very different than from up close. You don’t have to worry about a few worn spots or other such problems. Tiny blemishes won’t spoil the illusion.
In some areas, local dance or theater companies might have a borrowing policy in which they let you borrow or rent (for a nominal fee) their costumes, provided you promise to return them in good shape and cleaned. They might even enter into an agreement in which you would donate internship hours in lieu of a rental fee. You could credit them in your program or print a notice about their next presentations (McGreevy-Nichols et al. 2001).
The use of props can add a further dimension to your piece and can sometimes help reduce costume and scenery costs. Your imagination and creativity are your limit. For any flashy tune like "Puttin’ On the Ritz," you can make canes by getting wide wooden dowels and painting their tops shiny white and their bottoms shiny black. For "Masquerade" from Phantom of the Opera, you can trim inexpensive, plain party masks with glitter, feathers, gold paint, and mock jewels. "A favorite example from Building Dances involves wearing a tissue box on the head. Several [dancers] wearing this prop could form the yellow brick road in the Wizard of Oz or the Great Wall of China. When you paint them with commonly used colors, you can reuse them" (McGreevy-Nichols et al. 2001, p.32). One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and that is the key to collecting items as props. You can think of a prop that you want to use and go look for it, or you can find a prop that will inspire your dance. Be sure to look to the art room, art students, and art teachers for ideas and materials (McGreevy-Nichols et al. 2001).