By costume designer Caroline O’Brien
Caroline is curating a beautiful costume exhibit at The Theatre Centre as part of Map by Years from Feb 21-25.
I first met Peggy Baker when she arrived to the stage of the Betty Oliphant Theatre for a rehearsal with a group of ballet students. I remember that day in the fall of 1989 as though it were yesterday; fast forward a few decades and now we are engaged in a project aptly entitled Map by Years. That first meeting marked the beginning of an important collaboration that saw the fashioning of many one-of-a-kind costumes created for Ms. Baker over the arc of her 20 year solo career.
Ms. Baker has always had a deep respect and appreciation for her collaborators, and the costume designers are no exception. Now, as she maps the years with a beautiful array of dance, she has chosen to offer a retrospective of some of the singular works through some of their designers: Susan Macpherson, Denis Lavoie, Jane Townsend and myself, Caroline O’Brien. During the 2018 performance at the Theatre Centre a spotlight will shine on some of the exquisite one of a kind costumes created for Ms. Baker, installed in the spacious second floor gallery that leads directly into the performance space.
The main narrative of the exhibition uses dressmakers’ stands to show finished costumes on display, as a way to emphasize the comprehensive design process with stages in the birth of each costume according to the style of each designer. It follows a number of pieces from inception and initial design through cutting, sewing and after life. This opportunity to showcase a collaborative process through different designers will include renderings, photographs, and archival documentation in addition to the garments themselves.
The intent of the exhibition is to offer elements of a creative process and the craft and making aspects that are often withheld from the audience’s purview. It will offer new perspectives on the development and construction of singular and traditional dressmaking techniques and the skills required to fashion them, through the work of several designers. Using a combination of visual and prose narratives, the exhibition is intended to deepen and broaden the viewer’s understanding of the creative and technical aspects of creating dance costumes. The objects on view illustrate a valuable contribution to Canadian theatrical dance history.