the connected arm
Clothing designer Calla Jacobson was one of several Jackson area artists who were invited to design a costume or set piece for the recent “Up Close” performances by Contemporary Dance Wyoming. Jacobson came up with an ingenious and provocative three-armed garment, which essentially bound two dancers together. CDW choreographer Babs Case then choreographed in response to the garment.
Meg: Tell me a bit what inspired you to make the garments…
Calla: It started with Babs suggesting that the costumes could limit the dancers movement in some way and that the theme for the dances would be inspired by the four elements to go along with the Fire Festival. With that I began thinking at first about creating some sort of large head piece based on the elements (earth, wind, water, fire) that could be worn by a lead dancer and would have a garment somehow built out to connect the other dancers to this main piece, sort of like the large Chinese dragon costumes that are worn by several people to weave in and out in their own kind of dance. That evolved into a very simplified idea of a couple or grouping of people each in it’s own element, which became the connected arm piece.
“this connection with nature is a great reflection of person and communal relationships as well”
Meg: The connected arm can be seen as an umbilical cord. Were you thinking about that as you designed the garments?
Calla: While discussing the feel of the dance as inspired by the four elements with Babs, I became more inspired by the push and pull and constant shifting of relationships with others, ourselves and the world around us. I was not at all thinking directly of an umbilical cord, although, since I will soon be a mother, I am certainly feeling a very new kind of internal connection to another human being.
Meg: One viewer I spoke to thought the garment made the dancers seem like two sides of one person, which I think it an interesting idea. Personally I noticed how an embrace seemed the most efficient and effective way for a pair of dancers to move together in the garment. ‘m curious what you discovered about the garments that you didn’t know or envision prior to seeing them in performance?
Calla: I so appreciate that viewers filled the dance with their own personal experiences. And really so much of that is Babs’ deep and amazing choreography. She has a gift of finding the way to express so many of our human emotions in her work. This particular piece took on many manifestations before it became what it did. I am struck by your observation of the most efficient way of of the dancers moving within and without each other is to embrace. I had felt that very strongly in one of the rehearsals that I attended, noticing that in my current state of pregnancy, all of the quite deep feelings of connection with other, spouse, and really the elements as well…a deep connection to nature are very strong for me right now. As well as the very real feelings of uncertainty and life change that can be a bit scary as well. So just wanting to really remain grounded and connected to something or someone became another emotion that I became conscious of while watching the garments in action via Babs choreography.
Calla: I have to add, that it really was so wonderful to see all of the dances flow in and out of each other as they did. The other artists involved really took us in so many directions that evening while continuing the connection with nature in general. This connection with nature is a great reflection of person and communal relationships as well.