“Il Costume Prende Vita”: Courses for Costume Designers and Costume Technicians Lead by Professionals of the Teatro Alla Scala Academy, Milan, Italy

Project location: ITALY, Milano
Project start date: January 2011 - Project end date: June 2011
Project number: 2010-31
Beneficiary: Fondazione Accademia d’Arti e Mestieri dello Spettacolo Teatro alla Scala


PHASE I (From January 2011 to March 2011)

The partnership between the Ballet School and the training course for Costume Technicians was once more confirmed by the 2011's project: Il costume prende vita. This project has seen the contribution also of the young set designers from the Course for scenic artists, who supported the technical competences of the tailors and the artistic ones of the dancers involved.
The project of Il Costume prende vita, arises from an idea and need of the Ballets School's Director and immediately received the support of all the figures involved: coordinators, teachers and students as well.

The aim of the project was to create a work experience, in which artistic roles as well as the technical ones are involved as different players in a real work process leading to the staging of a ballet. The project has seen set designer students dealing with drawing of fashion-plates, that were going to be manufactured by Costume Technicians and at the end of the process worn by dancers on stage.
The project is structured in two different phases:
the first, the preparatory one aiming to transfer to students the necessary tailoring competences to carry out the work. In the meanwhile students received also training in the following disciplines: the history of costume with special focus on ballet.
The second, specialized phase, was focused on the production of the costume starting from the confrontation with the choreographer, the analysis of the music and the study of the choreography. This representing the preparatory work for the drawing of related fashion-plates.

The training has been built to assure to students the transfer of the necessary technical competences as well as the artistic and historical background. The practice was directed toward manufacturing techniques which led Costume technicians through the different stages and necessities for the realization of a ballet costume, with special focus on contemporary dance. It is necessary not only to preserve dancers' free of movement, but also to choose the right kind of fabric, which has to suit both the style of the choreography and the technical needs of the choreography itself.
Particularly interesting and meaningful have been the classes of History of Costume and Music appreciation addressed to costume designers students and Costume Technicians as well. Lessons have been finalized to go into the history of choreography's costume and music thoroughly.

The collaboration with teachers was not limited to classes though, in fact they have been involved also in the entire work process: in the meeting with theatre references (meeting between costume designers students and choreographer; meeting between costume designers students and Costume technicians; meeting between Costume technicians and dance students).
This applied methodology had the benefit that the entire work process was constantly under the supervision of both teachers and professionals and students had taken advantage of it, having also the possibility to discuss issues and feedbacks during class time.

The collaboration with choreographer Emanuela Tagliavia have been of capital importance in order to summarize artistic and technical needs related to choreographic movements and to dancers' bodies.
Chiara Donato, costume designer and teacher, helped students to express at the best their costume project and to develop it always with respect to choreography's instruction and to manufacturing's limits (fabric's selection; manufacturing technique).

The project at this first stage has been useful and didactically meaningful: students had the chance to confront themselves in a work process with respect of timing and of different roles, interacting, understanding, negotiating, and collaborating but in a protected environment. The contribution of teachers and professionals involved in the project in supporting students through the different stages of work both from a technical, relational and behavioral point of view has been important.

Costume designer students, after a first moment of confusion have been able to find the right inspiration to plan fashion - plates taking into account both requests of choreographer and dancers physical needs.

This first project stage ended with the presentation of fashion-plates.

The next phase will see:
- selection of fashion-plates by choreographer;
- selected meetings between set designer students and Costume technicians for the presentation of selected fashion-plates;
- costumes' manufacturing;
- staging of performance.

PHASE II (from April 2011 to June 2011)
The first project phase, the planning one (January - March 2011), ended with the presentation of fashion-plates by costume designer students to the choreographer, who proceeded with the selection of it.
This part was finalized to learn the right materials for costumes, through meetings and sharing of information about textiles, and studying dancers' physique.

It was followed by the second phase (April - June 2011), concentrated on the effective realization of the planning, the costumes' manufacture: from the setting of paper patterns to the achievement of prototype; from the textiles' manufacture and dyeing, to the staging of the performance.

This phase opened with a meeting with Costume Designers that presented to Costume Technicians their fashion-plates. This kind of meeting was essential because it represented the moment where technique was in service of art to interpret costume designers' ideas, through textiles. Costume Technicians in fact had to change a graphic idea in a three-dimensional object.
It followed the meeting between Costume technicians and dancers, necessary to check their own work and to make the right changes, to receive approval of Costume Designers and Choreographer and to confirm the wearability of dancers.
The last stage of the project was the final event, the diplomas' consignment, where the student of the School Ballet, danced with the costumes realized by Costume Designer and Costume technicians.

The most relevant aspect about this experience has been, besides realization of fashion plates and costumes, also the tangible growth of our students: in fact they put in place their technical knowledge and competence to realize an artistic idea, developing also new transversal competences such as relational ones to communicate with others companions to reach a common aim.
Every students showed sign of improvement thanks to the possibility to work around a prototype, a concrete idea; this situation offered them some motivational incentives, but also it required them attention, control and ability to find alternative solutions.
A further strength of this project was the constant involvement and participation of teachers who, firmly and gently, knew how to guide students during all phases of the training offering not only their own experience gained over years of work, but also ensuring the necessary support to overcome any problems that emerged.

Involved Courses
- Ballet school - 8th grade;
- Costume and Set Designers;
- Tailors for performing arts.

Teachers involved
- Maria Chiara Donato (Costume production techniques - stylistic consideration and Costume history);
- Pasqualina Inserra e Sabina Rostri (Costume production techniques);
- Fabio Sartorelli (music appreciation);
- Emanuela Tagliavia, (choreographer).

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