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Friday, June 13, 2014

BAM Blog Questionnaire: Cedar Lake costume designer Nancy Haeyung Bae

by Raphaele de Boisblanc

Grace Engine. Photo: Julieta Cervantes
In conjunction with Cedar Lake's 10th Anniversary Celebration (BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, through Jun 14), we reached out to designer Nancy Haeyung Bae for insights on creating costumes for the company. Nancy is a New York native and was educated at the Parsons School of Design. She is the co-founder of the brand aulle and has designed for Theory, Gap, and Isabel Toledo, among others.

How did you meet Cedar Lake's (former) artistic director, Benoit-Swan Pouffer, and what led you to work for the company?

I met Swan over 15 years ago at Alvin Ailey. Swan hired me to create costumes for a piece performed by the Ailey students at that time. We continued to work together on full-length installations and programs after he joined Cedar Lake. Swan's artistic vision has always been an inspiration to me. It involves a creative process that begins from an organic place; emotion, movement, sound and light—a different place to start when compared to retail product design. The talent at Cedar Lake collaborates on bringing innovative ideas to the table. I'm just happy to be a part of their process.

What were the unique challenges of designing costumes for Crystal Pite's Grace Engine? What do you most like about them?

Crystal Pite is an extraordinary visionary who saw Grace Engine being performed in fully tailored suits. Each suit was designed with the dancer in mind, having marked details and style lines different from one another. The unique challenge was to maintain a contemporary fit, which required meticulous attention to angles and seams that provided maximum rotation and movement. The fabrics were all non-stretch wools, so we spent a good deal of time engineering and perfecting patterns to work back to the performance. I worked with the talented wardrobe team at Cedar Lake throughout the development using new techniques; the experience was educational and exciting. I was very pleased with the end result.

Tuplet. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

Alexander Ekman's Tuplet is about rhythm, speed, and precision. How did knowing this affect your designs? 

Tuplet's costumes were designed to evoke a sense of utility. The explicit work suggests humans using their bodies as instruments with mechanical precision. We introduced a slightly more formal element to convey structure back to the casual canvas effect of the bottoms. The tightly prescribed gestures required us to shape seams as we developed so that the dancers felt both flexibility and resilience.

How have these experiences translated into your own designs?

Costume construction involves finding solutions and sculpting to a unique concept every time. Each work has individual technical requirements, which in many ways will demand dexterity on my part. The fundamental obligation to movement has blueprinted itself into my design process.

What are you top three favorites places to shop in New York?

Dover Street Market, ABC Home, and Eva Gentry.

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