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Bourgeois, Costumes & Dance

13 Aug 2014, by Eleanor Robertson

'EPISODES', a performance event featuring original costumes by 3rd year Performance Costume Design students from Edinburgh College of Art and performed by BA Honours Dance students from Edinburgh College. The performance was staged at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh as a response to the 'ARTIST ROOMS Louise Bourgeois, A Woman Without Secrets' exhibition.


I love art, costume and dance so to be part of a project which encompasses all of the three was a dream come true. The project was a reflection on the work of Louise Bourgeois, who was a French/American artist and sculptor. The National Galleries of Scotland proposed a collaboration between the Edinburgh College of Art 3rd Year Performance Costume students and the BA (Hons) Dance Degree students from Edinburgh College. The collaboration was performed in the exhibition space around Bourgeois’s work at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

Performers with 'Spider'

The process began very early, at the start of the academic year, when myself and the other dance students met with the costume design students to express our ideas and let our thoughts have a personal connection to her work. We had a brief meeting at the National Galleries of Scotland where we met Schools Education Officer, Joanna Mawdsley and Christopher Ganley from ARTIST ROOMS who spoke about the exhibition and the work that was to be exhibited in Edinburgh. Christopher spoke about some of Bourgeois’s famous works and mentioned a few of the main themes that ran throughout her work and life. This first meeting helped engage us in the project and, I believe, was extremely helpful for the art students to connect with her work.

Performer with '10 am is when you come to me'

As dance students, we needed to connect to the themes through movement so my lecturer, Ethelinda Lashley, invited the performance costume students into our studio to explore ways of moving by relating them to images of art. This was a very different process for me as we were working with non-dancers in the space. However our artistic brains clicked together very nicely once we paired up with a costume student. We were able to create a small piece of artwork based on our interpretation of the images through movement. The partner we worked with that day became our collaborative partner for the duration of the project.

Performer with 'A l'infini'

During the lead up to the performance at the gallery we met with our partners in their studio to start the process. My measurements were taken and we discussed ideas for the costume and what it would represent. I was partnered with performance costume student, Imogen Woolley who found inspiration from Bourgeois’s words in her work and themes linked with her childhood. We discussed movement, ideas based on escapism and the emotions of being a child. Imogen designed a cape that would be used throughout the dance work, which helped me express the image of a ‘runaway child’.

Performer with 'A l'infini'

Once the day of the performance arrived I was able to evoke all of the themes and make full use of the exhibition space through improvisation techniques. I was in a large room with the hanging fabric sculptures so I was able to keep my movement pattern very free throughout each performance. The performance was an hour long but for me it seemed to pass so quickly. Having a new group of eyes on you every few minutes helped me constantly engage with them. I really fed off the energy of the audience and challenged them with my performance. Having my face painted white, linking with the colour of the cape and bubble skirt, created a mask between the audience and myself. I was fully lost in this image of a young girl escaping reality.

I thoroughly enjoyed this collaborative project and was completely in my element during the performance. I wish there was more performance/costume collaborations in exhibitions. As a dancer I felt like a piece of art instead of dancing through steps on a stage.

Performer in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art