Haute Couture Bodies: A Powerful Observation Of The Fashion Industry

by Marketing Intern Rachael Appold

If you’re anything like me, finding an outfit to wear each day can result in a huge mess. It looks like a fashion bomb went off. Each morning I’m surrounded by an avalanche of the latest trends, and trends that didn’t quite stand the test of time. I search every last inch of my closet until I’m confident that I’ve found the perfect outfit for that day. Then, my next mission: cleaning up the mess I’ve made.

When I sat down at the Sprenger Theater in the Atlas Performing Arts Center, I could have sworn I was looking at a representation of my bedroom each morning. Hundreds of articles of clothing littered the stage. A single dancer stood center stage, holding a pile of clothing so big, that I could barely see the girl behind it. More dancers filed onto the stage, some in groups, and some by themselves. They each combed the stage for clothes, picking up an article and then dropping it a minute later. 

haute dance 2As one dancer followed the girl with the huge pile of clothes, stealing articles and throwing them into the distance, the other dancers arranged the garments into lines in order to create different shapes on the floor. This continued until the clothes formed two vertical lines running from upstage to downstage, and three dancers posed at each end, ready to walk down a surprise runway. Many audience members gasped at this surprising change of pace.

“Haute Couture Bodies”, performed by Joy of Motion Dance Center’s Youth Dance Ensemble, was filled with surprises that left my head spinning. Between the sudden catwalk and ragdoll-like drops to the floor, I didn’t have time to move away from the edge of my seat. And what was even more interesting than the twists and turns that this 45 minute production took, was the profound concept around which the piece was based. The piece is described as an exploration of “the punishment and glorification of narcissism in our culture, and the struggle to defy physical reality.”

Choreographer Felipe Oyarzun Moltedo said that the idea stemmed from a 2013 work he choreographed, “Femmenist”, which delved quite a bit into the topic of women’s clothing. “There was a question of ‘what makes an outfit feminine?’”, Moltedo stated during the talk-back session. “That question stuck with me.” Moltedo was also inspired by Coco Chanel. “She started off with nothing, then she became “Coco Chanel”, then she disappeared for a while, and then she came back”, he explained. “That’s what I like about the fashion industry; you can be nobody one day, and then the next day, you’re somebody.”

Moltedo explained that each movement served a different purpose. When one dancer followed the girl with the pile of clothes and removed articles from the stack, even while other dancers added garments to the pile, a state- ment was made about how quickly trends go in and out of style. Duets in which the dancers pulled each other around the stage by their shirts and shorts represented the desire to take what other people own, or to emulate their style. The dancers plucking each other’s spaghetti straps only to watch it snap back to their shoulders with an audible cracking sound represented the desire for each other’s skin itself.

This performance provided the audience with a unique interpretation of the fashion industry. Even the dancers of the Youth Dance Ensemble admitted that their perceptions of the industry had been affected by the piece. “I must admit before being in this piece my perception of the fashion industry was cynical and limited,” company member, Serena Baldick stated. “By creating this piece Felipe broadened my horizons to different aspects of the industry and how it affects our behavior.

“We explored how different sexes, personalities, and bodies change a person’s relationship to fashion. Further- more, the best part is that we discovered it all through dance. I am honored to have been a part of a piece that was both mentally enlightening, physically challenging, and wonderful to perform. That is what dance is all about.” The members of Joy of Motion Dance Center’s Youth Dance Ensemble performed “Haute Couture Bodies” in such an honest manner. haute talk backHearing the dancers talk about what inspired them during the talk-back session was a wonderful opportunity to look into the framework of such a moving piece.

Did you see “Haute Couture Bodies”? What was your favorite part of the show? Let me know in the comments section! If you’d like to keep up with the Youth Dance Ensemble, click here!