The glorious costumes seen in Swan Lake on Ice have been designed by Albina Gabueva, one of Russia’s top theatrical costume designers.
During her 30-year career, Albina has worked on more than 100 opera and ballet productions at the Moscow Stanislavsky Theatre.
She has also designed haute couture fashion, representing Russia on the international stage. Albina is now a freelance artistic designer and producer for a number of Russian theatres.
We talked to Albina about her stunning creations for Swan Lake on Ice:
What has been the main influence on your costume designs for this production?
The costuming has been influenced mainly by the Romanov period in Russian history. I wanted to recreate the dress styles that existed at the court of Nikolai II in the early 1900s. Reference material from that period was drawn upon to inspire the look that the Director, Tony Mercer, wanted to attain.
The divertissement costumes are derived and themed from the traditional dress of those particular countries.
Why did you choose the Romanov period for the costumes?
The Romanov setting for this production was the choice of the Director, Tony Mercer. Had Tony not chosen that particular period of history for costuming, I probably would not have accepted his invitation to design the costumes, as I believe that the costumes should reflect the particular period of time in which Tchaikovsky composed the music. The music of Tchaikovsky is extremely reminiscent of that period in history. I have been asked so often in the past to undertake design work on Swan Lake, and now tend to decline invitations as I prefer not to design for the classical ballet style which has no specific time period. I was delighted to be asked to design the costumes for this production.
What considerations do you have to make given the costumes are for skaters rather than ballet dancers?
The main consideration is costume length, given that ice skating blades can cause damage to long costumes, which is obviously of particular concern for the female skaters with flowing dresses. While I want to create costumes that have movement I have to be careful that they’re not too flowing and liable to get tangled or trip someone up! Also the choice of fabric is extremely important because of the lifts undertaken by the performers and the speed at which they lift and move. Special non-slip fabrics were used as a result, where hold and grip are of importance.
How have you characterised Odette and Odile?
The characterisation of Odette and Odile are in line with Tchaikovsky’s original intention, i.e. that they are performed as two separate roles. Tony Mercer wanted to stick with this interpretation. I have maintained the traditional portrayal of Odette as dressed in white and Odile in black, and both of them have a hint of swan designed into their human form costumes. As the story takes place during the evening or night, both roles are played in their human costumes, as they are only cursed to live as swans by day.
What do you expect the audience to leave with?
I believe that the audience will see a wonderful interpretation of Swan Lake. I had expected to see an interpretation of the ballet, put onto ice, but was delighted to see a wonderful theatrical presentation being staged in rehearsal. I think staging it on ice gives the story much more drama, partly due to the speed and of course the breathtaking manoeuvres. This is a unique staging which I think will leave the audience with beautiful memories. The dance between Odette, Odile and the Prince had me in tears at its poignant beauty.
When was the last time you worked on Swan Lake on Ice and how different is this production?
My last production work on Swan Lake was eight years ago and it was a ballet. I have worked on 11 different productions of Swan Lake to date, and all of these have been ballets. This is the first time I have designed costumes for an ice version of Swan Lake and I have had to take a very different approach. I have enjoyed the challenge enormously!
What excites you about working with the Imperial Ice Stars?
The Imperial Ice Stars are regarded here in Russia as the new theatre company to watch. There were a lot of people here who wanted to see their production of Sleeping Beauty on Ice, but the company’s busy World Tour schedule meant a visit to Russia wasn’t possible. Tony Mercer’s reputation in Russia as an innovative creator of ice theatre was my main reason for accepting the invitation to work with the company. While Tony is innovative, he is also tremendously sympathetic to the traditional feel of the story he is telling and this appealed to me. As a performing company, their work is a delightful surprise.