As executive director of the Tabula Rasa Dance Theatre, Amy Fine Collins was involved in the cutting-edge costumes that will be worn for the troupe’s upcoming ‘Oedipus Rex’ show.
She first became involved with the inclusive organization that explores difficult issues when artistic director Felipe Escalante founded it in 2018. On Friday, Collins will host a dance preview at The Ned hotel.
“Oedipus Rex” performances will be open to the public from September 27 through October 2 at New York Live Arts on West 19th Street. This modern take on Sophocles’ play is set in 2020 during the pandemic in a contemporary but slightly futuristic nightclub. “It’s quite an ambitious production that’s bold, inventive and beautiful all at the same time. Felipe is very focused on costumes and everything. It is extremely visual and literary. said Collins.
As the self-proclaimed “Fairy Godmother” of Tabula Rasa Dance Theatre, she helped Escalante get started, with fundraising, outreach, costumes and graphic design. The choreography is the exception – “it’s way beyond my canon. I wouldn’t even dare to imagine anything to contribute on that front,” she said.
Collins talks to him about costumes and sometimes helps develop ideas, but Escalante definitely has his own ideas. For the 75-minute “Oedipus” production, the performers will have around six costume changes, including some that only allow the performers one or two beats of music to change into. Coincidentally, mesh unitards and other sheer pieces, which were a recurring trend during New York Fashion Week’s last run at Tory Burch and other shows, are essential for dancers.
“There was a lot of transparency here in New York last week and this idea that the male and female body wasn’t all that different,” Collins said, noting the preponderance of mesh, net or chiffon styles. “You would see a man with a visible torso or a woman with a visible torso on the track, or someone you didn’t know if it was male or female. This point of ‘What do we hide in life?’ and how anatomy is beautiful and part of life and getting dressed and undressed,” Collins said.
Artists will also wear “extraordinary painted jackets,” including repurposed jackets like a Saint Laurent “Le Smoking” jacket, a plastic Geoffrey Beene raincoat, and an Isaac Mizrahi trench coat, among others. Designer-inspired costumes are in season. also, given that the New York City Ballet will soon be unveiling a fall lineup that includes costumes by Raf Simons, Giles Deacon and Alejandro Gómez Palomo.
The decision for dancers to wear mesh ruffs or collars with mesh units and strapless dresses came about from a conversation Collins had with Escalante about Beene-designed scrunchies, when scrunchies were at the fashion. (In another bizarre twist of fate, Rommy Hunt Revson, the darling’s creator, recently passed away.)
Escalante relies on workers and colleagues in Mexico to make the most technical parts of the costumes. “It’s also a matter of time, because he also knows how to sew,” she said.
Attendees of upcoming performances will be able to purchase “Oedipus Rex” tote bags printed with a quote from Sophocles and featuring an Atlas-inspired image that replaces a disco ball for the world that will cost “almost nothing.” said Collins. Seeing the logo, people wonder if it’s Robert Mapplethorpe, comment on its provocativeness or assume it’s “just another ancient sculpture”, she said. “It’s an interesting little Rorschach, but Felipe took this photo of himself. He is able to do just about anything. This is partly because resources are also limited.
The hope is that the company may be going on tour in a year or two. A robotic dog is featured in the production, and wearable lasers — bras, gloves, sunglasses and belts — periodically flash different colors at the dancers. The laser bras feature cone-shaped missiles reminiscent of those designed by Jean Paul Gaultier.
A photoshoot is scheduled with the dancers for As If magazine, and Collins has her own full dance card.
Still working on the “International Best Dressed List” and contributing to Air Mail, she is now also the New York editor-in-chief of World of Interiors, since the arrival of Hamish Bowles at the helm. Collins said sponsors are being lined up for an International Best Dressed List exhibit in development that could bow in New York in fall 2023. Collins is also planning a Geoffrey Beene exhibit, tapping into his own collection of the late designer’s work. And she’ll speak with a filmmaker about a documentary about her friend Thom Browne that’s being explored.