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|Costumes, props and lighting should work together.|
Avoid costumes which are predominently black in all venues unless you have a good reason for using it. If the venue has a dark background, the dancers will disappear. On stage and in venues with soft or dim lighting, only the movements of the body parts that are uncovered (face, hands, arms, torso) will be easily read. (That is why stagehands who have to come on stage to move properties during a performance wear it.) Close up, a black costume with minimal ornamentation may disappoint customers who are hoping for a joyful costume presentation.
For the stage, go bold and bright. Reach out to your audience with the brighter colors: earth-tone costumes will often not show up well on stage. Sequins and glitterdot really come into their own here; that $4/yd glitterdot will put on a better show than most beaded costumes. Folkloric costumes with their yards of fabric, large sleeves, heavy jewelry and swinging tassels are also good choices that can be read at a distance. Any patterns, either printed, embroidered or appliqued, should be large enough to be read at a distance. If you have a professional doing your lighting in a theatre, you have more options; a rich brown with pink accents, for instance, might be killer. A costume with elaborate fringe will broadcast your movements under the right lights. On an outdoor stage at a community gathering, the brown will probably fall flat and the fringe may obscure, not highlight.
For restaurants and parties and other places where the audience will see you close up: beautiful details will make your audience happy. Beaded fringe and elaborate embroidery with stones and applique add joy and opulence to the occasion. Both bright and dark colors in shades that flatter your figure and skin tone are appropriate.
The color of the costume will depend greatly on the emotional message of the dance, hence the chart on The Emotional Messages of Color, below. However, you have more freedom to choose colors that are flattering to your skin and hair coloring than troupe members may.
If you are not sure what those colors might be, The book Color Me Beautiful, an eye-opener for many in the 1980s, might be of interest to you. The author proposed basing color choices on skin color and intensity (contrast). To aid comprehension, she divided coloring into four seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn.
|Harmonious Rhythm: Color Combinations that not only fit together but include one or more dynamic accent colors that bring the whole combination to life.— Adriene Cruz, Technicolor Quilts, Threads Magazine Dec 94/Jan 95.
Value referes to the amount of light or dark in a color, but it is always relative. A color's value depends on what surround it. A medium-navy fabric surounded by lighter-colored fabrics is dark in value in relation to these other colors. But the same navy surrounded by a black fabric is lighter in value than the other fabrics.— Adriene Cruz, Technicolor Quilts, Threads Magazine Dec 94/Jan 95.
Contrast: The difference in values in adjacent colors. Dramatic designs often incorporate strong contrasts. Subtle, low-key designs incomporate minimal contrast.— Adriene Cruz, Technicolor Quilts, Threads Magazine Dec 94/Jan 95.
|Winter||High||Cool||Coloring is cool and clear, with a high level of contrast between skin tone and hair color. Vivid or icy tones like pure white, navy, emerald green, deep hot pink, true red, bright burgundy, royal blue, charcoal gray, black. Accessorize with silver or platinum.|
|Summer||Low||Cool||Coloring is cool and muted, with a low low level of contrast between skin tone and hair color. Cool, soft colors, like most blues (including periwinkle, blue-gray and navy), off-white, rosy beige, brown, lavender or pastel pink (with blue undertones). Accessorize with silver, very pale gold or pearls.|
|Spring||High||Warm||Coloring is warm and clear. Clear, delicate and bright hues, like creamy beiges, light royal blue, peachy or bright warm pinks, turquoise or aqua, pastel green, golden brown or medium purple. Accessorize with gold or pearls.|
|Autumn||Low||Warm||Coloring is warm and muted. Strong shades with warm undertones, like camel, dark tomato red, forest or olive green, all oranges, coffee or chocolate brown, teal blue. Accessorize with gold.|
Colors have many different characteristics. Because of this, anyone can wear any color/hue based on their own characteristics and those of the color.
Troupes often do not have the broad selection of costumes that a soloist has. In order to use the emotional messages of color to your advantage, consider starting with base costume pieces that can be mixed and matched with belts, vests, veils, panels and overskirts.
Only the strongest dancers in a group onstage should wear red or gold unless everyone else on stage is wearing them as well. The audience eyes will be attracted to that color; the audience will then focus on that performer; and the skill of your entire performance group will be evaluated by the skill of the performer in the red costume. These colors also carry emotional messages that need to be in sync with the dance and the dancers; a performer who is letter-perfect in her dance but unable or unwilling to project power and passion should not be in a red costumes. Unfortunately, red and gold are frequently the first colors your beginners will want to wear on stage, because they are attracted to them too. Be firm; solo colors in a group dance context have to be earned.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind. When choosing one color for group dances, introducing different shades of the same color adds richness to the total scene. If a different color for each dancer is preferred, then colors should be in the same tones, all pastel or all in bright colors. Striking colors such as bright reds or oranges should be avoided or worn by solo dancers. When prints or designs are used they should not be overpowering, nor should they be too small to be seen from the stage. Shiny materials reflect the stage lighting and tend to make the wearer larger than she really is. Intricate bead work is beautiful for floor shows and films, but not necessary for solo or group dancers on a theatre stage, as they cannot be seen from a distance.
For more suggestions on designing costumes for troupes, see Costume Design for Dance Troupes.
|Color Wheel||Tints and Shades||Magic
|Red||Brilliant, intense, enlarging, masculine, active, opaque, dry.
Fire, heat, strength, love, passion, power, anger, primitiveness, excitement, patriotism, sin, fierceness.
|Dark Pure Red||Love and Amiability|
|Medium Red||Health and Vitality|
|Dark Greyed Red||Evil|
|Strong Light Pink||Daightiness|
|Pure Medium Pink||Delicacy, innocence|
|Greyed Light Pink||Daintiness|
|Greyed Medium Pink||Frivolity|
|Red-orange||Intense, bright, dry, enlarging, masculine.
Autumn, energy, gaiety, impetuousness, strength, spirit, boldness, action, warmth, loudness.
|Orange||Bright, luminous, dry, enlarging, masculine, glowing.
Autumn, warmth, cheer, youthfulness, vigor, exuberance, excitement, extremism, earthiness, satiety, loudness, charm.
|Strong Dark Orange||Ambition|
|Strong Medium Orange||Intensity|
|Dark Medium Brown||Utility|
|Light Medium Brown||Maturity|
|Yellow-orange||Bright, radiant, dry, enlarging, masculine, glowing.
Autumn, happiness, prosperity, hospitality, gaiety, optimism, openness.
|Yellow||Sunny, incandescent, radiant, feminine.
Spring, brightness, wisdom, enlightenment, happiness, kindness, cowardice, treachery, ill health, warmth.
|Strong Light Yellow||Inspiration|
|Medium Yellow||Prudence, goodness|
|Light Medium Yellow||Wisdom, attention|
|Strong Light Yellow|
|Yellow-green||Tender, bright, enlarging.
Spring, friendship, youth, sparkle, warmth, restlessness, newness.
|Green|| Clean, moist, reducing.
Summer, youth, inexperience, growth, envy, restlessness, newness, quiet, naturalness, wealth, coolness, water, refreshing, ghastliness, disease, terror, guilt.
|Blue-green||Quiet, clean, moist.
Summer, quietness, reserve, relaxation, faithfulness, smoothness, discriminating, rational.
|Blue||Transparent, wet, deep, reducing.
Winter, peace, restraint, loyalty, sincerity, youth, conservatism, passivity, honor, purity, depression, melancholy, sobriety, serenity, gentleness, innocence.
|Blue-violet||Deep, soft, reducing, moist
Tranquility, spiritualism, modesty, reflection, somberness, maturity, aloofness, dignity, fatigue.
|Violet||Deep, soft, dark, misty, atmospheric, reducing.
Stateliness, royalty, drama, dominance, mystery, dignity, pomposity, supremacy, formality, melancholy, quietness, mourning, loneliness, desperation, profundity, artistic, philosophical.
|Red-violet||Deep, soft, dark, warm.
Drama, enigma, intrigue, tension, remoteness, intensity.
|Brown||Warm, dark, deep.
Autumn, casualness, friendliness, naturalness, earthiness, tranquility, honesty, security, substance, stability, humility.
|White||Spatial, light, deep.
Winter, snow, youthfulness, virginity, joy, purity, cleanliness, honesty, hope, innocence, spiritualism, enlightenment, forgiveness, worthiness, delicacy, love, day.
|Black||Spatial, dark, deep.
Night, mourning, ominous, deadly, death, formality, sophistication, gloom, uncertainty, evil, mystery, dignity, sorrow.
Calmness, dignity, serenity, versatility,
resignation, death, ghostliness, obscurity, penitence
Interestingly enough, the color black, the basis for so many tribal and beginner costumes, may NOT be a wise choice unless the dancers are proficient and the dance mood calls for it. In a study covering 50,000 NHL games over a quarter-century, researchers found that teams wearing black jerseys were were assessed ten percent more penalty minutes than when wearing other colors. One explanation is a cognitive bias that comes from cultural associations. Black = witch, white = bride, etc. I suggest that the torso color is the key here; black pants or skirt with colors on the torso will side-step most of the problem. In short, beware the default black tribal costume unless black is what you mean to say.
The Schemes are based on the position of each hue on the Color Wheel.
Tints and Shades of the colors can also be used. Substituting pink with red should not invalidate the Color Scheme under consideration.
Be aware of the effect of stage lights on costume colors. A colored light often has the same effect as adding it to a paint mixture; shine an orange light on a violet costume and the audience will perceive the costume as dark gray, for instance. Bright lights make colors seem warmer (yellow undertones); low lights make colors seem cooler (blue undertones). Amateur light technicians at a gig may need to be encouraged to hold off on the DJ rotating color spot lights during your performance; the focus should be on the dancing, not the fancy color effects.
From StageLightingPrimer.com: There are two ways to mix colors in lighting:
In additive mixing, primary colors are those three colors which, when aimed at the same place at the same intensity, theoretically form white light ("theoretically", because in practice, this is limited by the imperfections of color filters and light sources). These colors are red, green, and blue.
The secondary colors in additive mixing are those colors which can be created by evenly mixing two primaries. These colors are Cyan (blue and green), Magenta (blue and red), and Amber (red and green).
Solids vs Prints: A shape cut from solid-color fabric is read as both a color and a shape.
Small-scale prints can be read as solid-color or as muddy, depending on the design and on the number of colors in the print.
Small-scale prints look uniform in design at any size, and do not require special handling to match design components or to control impact.
Large-scale prints cut into pieces will produce different effects in each piece, unless cut so that each piece is exactly the same.
Combining large, small and medium scale prints can enliven a design.
Solids show stitching problems far more than printed fabrics.
J. Arthur H. Hatt, The Colorist, color theory from the printer's point of view. D Van Nostrand Company, NY, 1908.
Sidonia Sipes, General Costume Suggestions, Teszia troupe costume guidelines, 2001.
Worqx.com color wheel.
Colorist Color Wheel from 1908.
Maura Enright, Proprietor
Author: Maura Enright
©2012 - 2015 by Maura Enright
Updated December 2015
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