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Bianca Spender on designing for dance

09 April 2019

For his brand new work Cinco, choreographer Rafael Bonachela melds five virtuosic dancers with the delicate beauty of Bianca Spender’s costumes.

Inspired by the soaring sounds of Alberto Ginastera’s String Quartet No.2, the costumes range in colour from dusk to dawn and incorporate elements of twisted beauty.

We spoke to Bianca about her designs for Cinco and the inspirations behind her work.

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Could you please tell us a little about your inspiration behind the Cinco costumes?

The first thing I started with was the conversation I had with Rafael Bonachela about the music for Cinco. When I was listening to the music there was this intensity, sweeping passion and these varying emotional journeys. I wanted the costumes to have simplicity with a twist because of the way the pace changes so much. The costume had to have air, fluidity and enhance the dancers.

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Bianca Spender and Company dancer Chloe Leong. Photo by Pedro Greig.

What is the process of creating a costume from design to performance?

Coming from fashion you generally see one model after another, so you absorb them as a separate individual concepts, whereas here, all five dancers are in the space together.

Amongst the dancers themselves, there is so much synergy and I wanted to enhance and magnify this. I was trying to capture all that feeling in their costumes. I’m making costumes that I know are probably going to be destroyed because of the fine chiffon. I knew this was a dangerous choice, but I was so committed to the air they achieve.

I thought about what time of day I imagined hearing Alberto Ginastera’s music, which drew me to the chosen colours. I felt it was about dusk and twilight hours (not night or day), so I started with gold then choose the others: dusky blues and mushroom greys. We swapped colourways and changed fabrics so they had the right weight, lightness, intensity and depth to them all.

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Company dancer Holly Doyle in Cinco. Photo by Wendell Teodoro.

Could you please tell us a little about your collaboration with Rafael Bonachela and how you influenced each other’s creative ideas?

I think Rafael is a born collaborator, he gives you full confidence to realise your vision. He hands it over to your domain. He has his own vision, but he gives you space to work in your expertise.

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Company dancer Charmene Yap. Photo by Pedro Greig.

How is designing for dance similar or different to designing your own collections?

I think what’s fascinating about designing for dance is that it’s not dissimilar from designing other collections in the fact that you can have a lot of freedom and considerations. I have designed collections inspired by dance before, but never specifically for dance. Considerations for designing for people can include: how does this jacket feel when I’m driving a car, how does it look when I sit down. But for dance, the scope of movement is just so vast. It was a nice fit because movement has always inspired my design process, like how the fabric falls around you when you move.

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Dancers in rehearsal for Rafael Bonachela’s Cinco. Photo by Pedro Greig.

How would you describe your design style?

My design style is about the meeting of masculine and feminine elements and precise tailoring crossed with romantic organic drape. That’s what’s important to me and my designs, this idea of beauty and strength together.

See Bianca Spender’s costumes in Rafael Bonachela’s Cinco as part of Sydney Dance Company’s 50th Anniversary triple bill, Bonachela / Nankivell / Lane from 26 March in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne & on National Tour across Australia.

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