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Fashion: UFV Grads See Costume Industry Close Up With Elton John Ballet
By Patty Wellborn. When UFV fashion design grads Corey Bond and Christina Dietterle talk about Elton John, they talk fashion statement, not music superstar. [Click On Image For Full Story]
For them, he conveys images of feathers, high heels, outrageous eyewear, and sequins Ã¢â‚¬â€ not billboard hits like Yellow Brick Road or Rocket Man.Bond and Dietterle graduated from the University of the Fraser ValleyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s two-year fashion design diploma program in 2009. When they heard through the UFV fashion alumni grapevine about the Alberta Ballet’s new production Love Lies Bleeding Ã¢â‚¬â€ inspired by the life and music of Elton John Ã¢â‚¬â€ they were intrigued. And in the fashion business, like most others, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not what you know but who you know Ã¢â‚¬â€ they were soon contacted by UFV fashion alumna Denise Gingrich.
Gingrich graduated from UFVÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fashion design program in 1991, went to Ryerson to earn her BAA in fashion in 1994, and then came back to work in UFVÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s theatre department for a short while. Gingrich also worked as the costume shop manager with the Calgary Opera and the Banff Centre. Through those connections, she ended up as head of costumes for Loves Lies Bleeding Ã¢â‚¬â€ and when she needed help, she knew where to find it. Famed designer Martine Bertrand was hired by Alberta Ballet to design the costumes and Bertrand requested the Banff Centre come on board to help produce the complex garments for the show.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“One of the Banff CentreÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mandates is to provide entry-level opportunities to students,Ã¢â‚¬Â Gingrich explains. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Due to the difficulty of the project, I wanted high-calibre work-study students so I contacted UFVÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fashion and theatre teachers.Ã¢â‚¬ÂBoth Bond and Dietterle jumped at the chance and before long the pair was off to Banff where the costumes were being assembled.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We worked at the Banff Centre for 10 weeks and it was such a great opportunity,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Bond, an Abbotsford resident. Ã¢â‚¬Å“And now, having that experience is a really good thing to have on a resume. We made a lot of connections with people who work in the industry.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Love Lies Bleeding is described as a pop-ballet production that tells the story of an Elton fan who gets caught up in the world-wind pop culture while emanating his hero. The contemporary semi-abstract ballet is set to 14 songs composed Elton John and Bernie Taupin and has a full cast of dancers and actors. Both Bond and Dietterle were hired as wardrobe work-studies and were given a variety of different construction, sewing, and fabricating jobs for the costume department. The show played in Calgary to sell-out crowds in May.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We were basically constructing costumes, and sometimes, because there were so many costumes to be made, it was sort of like an assembly line,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Bond. Ã¢â‚¬Å“And then sometimes you just worked on one thing. For example, I was assigned the belt loops for one costume and there were lots of dancers in that act (who needed the same costume). I made a heck of a lot of belt loops, and I sewed on a lot of buttons. But it was such a great experience; I would do it again in a heartbeat.Ã¢â‚¬ÂBond and Dietterle ended up as roommates in Banff and at the end of each shift they could compare tasks they had handled that day. One job Dietterle was assigned was attach huge, 12-inch long white feathers onto ornate epaulettes Ã¢â‚¬â€ a costume for one of the acts in the ballet.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“They needed six pairs for the Clockwork girls,Ã¢â‚¬Â she says. Ã¢â‚¬Å“That was a lot of feathers and a lot of glue. My fingertips were so sore!Ã¢â‚¬Â
While both say some of the work was occasionally tedious, the know that working under the deadlines of a show about to go into production and being under the tutelage of some of CanadaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s top costume designers was a unique opportunity.Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was a really good glimpse into the industry,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Dietterle. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We had deadlines that were always moving, fittings that went late into the night, and there was weekend work the closer we got to the show and lots of extra hours. But the experience was so amazing.Ã¢â‚¬Â
They were in Banff last spring and were able to watch one of the shows when it opened in May 7. As work-study participants, the pair was paid a stipend for their hours. They both stress, however, that the reward from their work didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t come in the form of a cheque.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was so neat to watch the costumes take their shape and come to life as we worked on them,Ã¢â‚¬Â Dietterle adds.
Dietterle was thrilled to hear that Sir Elton John has recently approved the ballet and given the production his full blessing; so the show will go on. She has heard that it will start travelling in 2011 Ã¢â‚¬â€ and that means the many costumes she and Bond helped create, will be on the road travelling with the production.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Those costumes are indestructible. They are so well made, they will look great for all the performances, not matter how long, or where, the show plays.Ã¢â‚¬ÂWhile studying fashion design at UFV, students take a variety of courses, and can follow specialty options in textiles and marketing, and fashion technology. This opportunity in Banff gave them both a good insight into the costume industry and helped make future connections for them.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was a once-in-a-blue moon opportunity and will certainly help if I decide to go into the costume industry,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Dietterle. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I got to work with a lot of different fabrics and materials. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m so glad the show was so successful and Elton John has approved it.Ã¢â‚¬Â
And both, who werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even born when Sir Elton was rocking in the 1970s, say it has helped them appreciate his music so much more.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We listened to his music a lot and since I worked on the Rocket Man costumes, that song now means a lot more to me than it did before,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Bond. Ã¢â‚¬Å“But the best part of the whole experience was seeing our costumes on stage during the performance.Ã¢â‚¬Â
UFVÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Fashion Design diploma program is accepting applications for the September intake. To find out more about the program, visit www.ufv.ca/fashion