Victor Glemaud is collaborating with the American Ballet Theatre to design costumes for choreographer Lauren Lovette’s “La Follia Variations,” debuting Friday.
The performance will be the first held in Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa, Calif., since the shutdown of all live theater in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be recorded and appear on digital platforms.
It’s the first time Glemaud has ever designed ballet costumes. “I’m nervous and really honored to be doing it,” said Glemaud, who was reached in Los Angeles, where he’s staying and working on fittings with the dancers.
The overall program, called “Uniting in Movement” is composed of three works by contemporary choreographers, each with very personal and unique visions for the future of ballet: Lovette, Jessica Lang and Darrell Grand Moultrie. The program pays homage to ABT’s classical heritage with Grand Pas Classique, a virtuosic showcase of ballet technique.
Asked how he became involved with the ABT, Glemaud explained that Hamish Bowles reached out to him and connected him with the ABT in January, and that Lovette has previously worn his clothes. “The costumes came about through our conversations, and her wanting them to be classical, but modern. We were thinking about the dancers today, and not having it be gender specific, even through they are tutus. They all have this one-shoulder silhouette, which is something I do often, and I put the guys and the women in the same silhouette,” Glemaud said.
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There are eight costumes in total, all in jewel tones. The men are in ruby, and the women are in such colors as aquamarine, sapphire, turquoise and lapis. “Really rich and bold colors. I wanted it to feel new and exciting and just really sort of lush,” he said. He noted that a lot of people will be viewing this on their phones and the computer, “Even though it’s being performed live, it’s still going to be seen virtually. I really wanted it to be like you were seeing it in person and see the impressions in color.”
Victor Glemaud courtesy shot.
Discussing what he learned from the experience, Glemaud explained that working with a tutu was quite interesting. He went to the ABT warehouse, where he found the tutus to dye and repurpose. He then did fittings over Zoom. “The garment has to allow them to move, and they move in different ways than non-dancers do. That was really different, and thinking about how you see a costume all the way around their bodies and not just the front and the back. And thinking of different sizes. How do you have it feel uniform? That was really the fun part,” he said. “They are contemporary versions of classical ballet costumes. It’s a body suit and it’s a tutu that we’ve updated in terms of color, in terms of cut and in terms of silhouette.”
Glemaud said it was a tight time frame. “We started in January, and the original deadline was March and they moved it [to April],” he said. He worked with someone from time at Paco Rabanne, which “Made it far more reassuring, especially with a really tough deadline. I think the costumes came out great. The lighting played into the color selection for the costumes. It was a real learning process of how you stage and build costumes for a performance.”.
Glemaud did a Zoom fitting with the dancers on Monday, and Wednesday was the first rehearsal in costume. He plans to be in the audience Friday night.
Victor Glemaud’s designs for “La Follia Variations.” courtesy shot.
A big fan of the ballet, Glemaud said pre-COVID-19 he would try to go as much as he could. “When this came around, I was ‘absolutely, without hesitation.’
“I just wanted the costumes to really celebrate the craft of ballet. There’s a lot of traditional movement. It’s a really moving piece. There’s no star in the piece. I just wanted all of them to feel like equals, in terms of the costumes.”
“La Follia Variations” is set to music of the same name by Francesco Geminiani. Lovette, a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, originally created “La Follia Variations” for the ABT Studio Company and completed it on the day the ABT studios closed in March 2020. It is now being set on the main company for its premiere.
Asked if there’s a story in the 28-minute ballet, Glemaud said, “It’s not ‘Swan Lake.’ It’s more of a piece.”
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