O’More, New Dialect Forge ‘Happier Medium’ Between Fashion Design, Dance

Fashion design and modern dance are powerful mediums that transcend artistic expression into the realm of contemporary lifestyles and entertainment. But the two don’t always play nicely together as there is an inherent struggle between designing costumes that are visually captivating and functionally efficient.

On the local level, O’More College of Design and New Dialect, a contemporary dance collective and training program, are partnering to create a happier medium between the two art forms.

With underwriting from the Nashville Fashion Alliance (NFA), O’More fashion students and New Dialect dancers are collaborating on a project that will open the annual O’More Fashion Show on Thursday, May 10 at The Franklin Theatre.

“One of the key values of the NFA is collaboration,” says NFA CEO Van Tucker. “We’re thrilled to sponsor this partnership between New Dialect and O’More, a collaboration with purposeful design between two iconic creative organizations.”

In a coincidental quirk, the performance itself is an expression of collaborative problem solving. It’s part of Limitation Etudes, a New Dialect series that considers how physical constraints can be overcome.

“In this performance the dancers will be working together to solve a problem,” says Banning Bouldin, New Dialect’s founder and artistic director. “The visual picture of how the dancers are connected will be elaborate, elegant and surrealistic. And it requires elements of fashion design to present that message effectively.

“Collaborating with students is something that’s new for us but it’s exciting to work with them. They have energy and they are open to new ideas.”

Amie Hoff is one of several students who are working on the performance’s centerpiece costume that they call The Big Skirt. “This is a technically challenging piece because it’s visually prominent, but it also has to move correctly,” says the O’More sophomore. “I’ve really enjoyed working with the dancers. I’ve enjoyed watching them and finding out what’s important to them and their performance.”

Many of the students are discovering that the elusive balance between function and fashion can be found in something tangible. “One of the things I’ve done is to change fabrics so that now I’m using something that is more durable, but it still has a romantic feel,” says junior Morgan Stengel. “It’s exciting to see both of my dancers come together in a performance in a well-made costume that I created just for them.”

The project also allows for students to become immersed in the intrinsic value of the performance.

“It’s just so cool to be involved in something that’s designed for a meaningful cause,” says senior Marissa McHaney. “The performance is designed to be visually appealing but there’s a powerful message behind it.”

The partnership between O’More and New Dialect is of particular interest to Tony Perrin, who has ties to both organizations.

“I always found their was a disconnect between form and function and form always lost out,” says Perrin, an O’More fashion instructor and New Dialect collaborator. “I’ve always wanted to bridge that divide and that’s what we’re trying to do in this project.”