David Fleischer is a Sydney-based set and costume designer working across theatre, opera and dance throughout Australia. We spoke to David about his inspiration and the process behind creating the set and costumes for Rafael Bonachela’s Ocho as part of our extraordinary double bill, Orb.
Tell us a little about your collaboration with Rafael Bonachela and some of the ideas behind the design of the set.
Rafael was very flexible and open to ideas at the beginning of our collaborative process. He was interested in using a set again (like in Frame of Mind, 2015) and together we wanted to explore what a set could provide dramaturgically to the dance work. We wanted to create a space in which to explore the relationship between the dancers and the relationship between the dancers and the set.
The set design is based on the choreographic framework of Ocho where eight solo dancers eventually come together to form a group. With all the dancers in the space at the same time, I asked myself the question of what are the other dancers doing during the solos? The room is my answer to this question. The set houses the eight dancers in a space as they show off their stamina, virtuosity and strength. The set defines the tension between the individual and the group.
When designing the set I looked at a range of images of commercial, religious and domestic buildings for inspiration however the set doesn’t represent a specific location or environment.
What are some of the similarities or differences between working in dance and theatre?
The starting point is different in dance as there isn’t a prescribed script or text. My process of response in dance is different to theatre as I’m responding to the music, to my inspirations and instincts and to the inspirations and instincts of the choreographer and dancers. It’s a much more organic process. I find working in dance is more open-ended, more instinctual and more exploratory.
What about the costumes?
As the dancers are stuck in this abstract, monumental space, the costumes are about recognising them as human beings. For that reason I’ve chosen real, found clothes for the costume with each individual dancer dressed differently. I wanted to represent how this collection of eight, very unique and dynamic individuals were connected in the space and experiencing something together.
The choices I’ve made aren’t based on the character of the individual dancer but respond to their physical language. For example, I see Juliette has long extensions in her movement while Nelson has a very grounded movement quality, so the costumes I hope will complement these aesthetics.
I have chosen a broad spectrum of colour and texture with some reference to 80’s and 90’s photography of social portraiture. This wasn’t a starting point but I realised there was an underlying thread through the choices I was making and recognised there was a link back to some underground photography of that era.
Who or what are you inspired by as an artist?
I’m mostly inspired by photography and installation art. I appreciate the filtration of the real world through these art forms. One example of the type of artist I admire are the duo Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset whose work draws from diverse disciplines such as social politics, architecture, performance and design.
See Ocho live on stage in the world premiere of Orb from 29 April – 27 May in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.