Costumes as Data



Prof Rachel Fensham


Ivana Domazetoska

School of Languages and Linguistics (PhD Candidate)

Project summary

The purpose of the Costumes as Data project is to visualize the different variations in dance costumes across twenty works by two American choreographers: Merce Cunningham and Katherine Dunham. The variations in how costumes are represented on the scene bear important semiotic implications about the roles portrayed and the choreographer’s own individualism. Importantly, these on-stage creations divulge the choreographers’ stance towards what is being portrayed through the costumes and the ways in which it has been portrayed. This project aims to illustrate this notion through exploring how the two American choreographers who were active during the same period (~1940s) created and represented their costumes on stage. We begin this exploration by first gathering data from archives, images, and other web resources which we then compile into an Excel sheet. Costume categorization begins with the most fundamental costume pieces which we refer to as Genera (see slides for illustration) - concept inspired by Dr Rachel Fensham. Variations in Genera species, material, color use, and designer contributions are further explored through data visualization techniques implemented in R-Studio, where we uncover the differences and similarities across different works. The generated visualizations then give rise to semiotic interpretations in line with informed theory.

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