You Want My Wont has been funded by the Arts Council, so the costume budget was not enormous, but New RenaisCAnce are masters of making something out of nothing; in the past, they have made intricately embroidered tops out of stockings, a ballgown out ofnewspaper and bustiers out of old charms and nick-nacks, and most recently, a jacket for Bryan Ferry's latest video (the duo's directorial debut) out of 16mm film and cracked mirror. Using everyday materials, they make a magical world. It was their use of unusual textures and fabrics that attracted Bunty Matthias to New RenaisCAnce.
When Efua Baker, who sings the narrative for the show, turned up for her costume fitting, Harvey Bertram-Brown showed her how to operate the lights that flash on the bodice and majorette's hat. She pushes the pressure points and a heart shape flashes in red. You would never know that the moulded bodice is made of a second skin of sticky tape - it looks more like fibreglass, with opalescent paint and silver leaf trapped inside it. The skirt is made out of a larger-than-life photoprint of Bunty Matthias on plastic, cut into squares and threaded together so it has articulated movement.
Designing exciting, non-restricting costumes was a challenge for New RenaisCAnce. They wanted to get away from the traditional all-in-one leotard, and have created a kind of armour using tape, rubber, Latex, nylon fishing threads and Spandex. Super-stretchy rubber shorts are painted and made to look like beaten metal. The dance is about people coveting things that belong to others, and ultimately wanting to be someone else. So the stickytape armour provides a barrier between the dancer and the audience.
"You have to be able to move in the costumes, and they must be able to withstand rough treatment," says Carolyn Corben. "They must also be powerful enough to sustain the audience's interest over a whole performance without it looking like a fashion show."
And for Bunty Matthias they must also be modern. "You can't really tell how they have been made or what period they are from. The result is that the costumes look futuristic - not in a Star Trek way, but in that they look unfamiliar," says Ms Corben.
New RenaisCAnce have always thought of fashion as being as much about music and video as about how many shirts you can sell: "Fashion is very relevant to our culture and society, tied up with everything. We're interested in exploring that, trying to do something interesting and uplifting and something people feel inspired by." Which is why Harvey and Carolyn were so excited by the Christmas title sequence they designed for BBC2. About 2.5 million views caught a glimpse of their world when they saw Jack Frost and the Snow Queen between programmes.
Bunty Matthias has a similar attitude to dance. She has previously worked with the fashion designers Maria Cornejo and Andre Walker. She does not want her performances to be seen by only a chosen few. By combining the talents of Tom Dixon, Jazzie B, EfuaBaker, and New RenaisCAnce, Bunty Matthias has made a show that has a wider appeal than that of a traditional dance.
Indeed, the combination has proved so appealing that the three scheduled shows have sold out and an extra performance has been slotted in tomorrow afternoon to keep up with demand.Reuse content