[中][ENG] 從紙上構思到台上霓裳的魔法魅力:訪問香港芭蕾舞團服裝部總監莊惠玲

From design sketches on paper to stunning costumes on stage: An interview with Joanne Chong, Hong Kong Ballet Director of Wardrobe


訪問、撰文:葉懿雯


香港芭蕾舞團(港芭)《胡桃夾子》(2021)榮獲本屆香港舞蹈年獎「傑出舞台及服裝設計」。這次邀請到港芭服裝部總監莊惠玲(Joanne)進行訪談,讓我們一窺劇中240套手工戲服背後的故事,感受把紙上的抽象設計變成台上的華麗服飾的魔法魅力。


一切從三年多前開始。藝術總監衛承天(Septime Webre)構思出新版《胡桃夾子》的故事大綱,邀請捷克設計師布里埃拉.季列索娃(Gabriela Tylesova)負責佈景及服裝設計,區宇剛為執行設計。為切合這次糅合本土元素的改編,設計師和Joanne帶領的服裝部搜集大量香港本土文化和動植物的資料,研究中國不同年代的服飾細節、配色和圖案,從中尋找服裝設計的靈感。

莊惠玲與衛承天討論老鼠服裝細節 Joanne and Septime discussing the details of the Rats’ costume/照片由提供香港芭蕾舞團Photo provided by Hong Kong Ballet


當收到設計師的角色造型設計圖,服裝部便開始「施展魔法」:放低以往版本的《胡桃夾子》,重新按照設計要求,拿捏角色需要,配合舞者動作,把設計圖紙上抽象夢幻的色彩和線條變成具體服裝,既要把各種角色活靈活現於觀眾眼前,又要讓舞者穿得舒適,自如地表演各種舞蹈動作。


Joanne回想整個製作過程說:「真的經歷了很多難題,設計師有很多立體設計,並表明不要傳統常見的戲服,著重追求立體生動的效果,過程由頭到尾都充滿挑戰。」


其中一個挑戰就是為每套服裝尋找合適物料。選用的物料不限於紗、布、珠、線,更會運用日常服裝不常用的凝固膠、鐵線、飲管、魚絲等,改變其原有用途,經過熔化或屈曲等變形處理,以彈性的物料塑造生動的造型,例如孔雀的羽毛。即使是紗,也會比較不同來源地、不同的種類,最後選用的德國製阿根紗(organza)軟硬適中,既能保持立體造型,又不失優雅飄逸的感覺,染色效果也較為鮮艷。


說到最具挑戰的服裝,Joanne笑說定是冰雪皇后(Snow Queen)和雪花仙子(Snowflakes)。「那幅設計圖真的很抽象,我花了很多心思拿捏用料造法,試驗多次,效果也未如理想,不是太重,就是太呆板,或是感覺太惡,不夠優美,跳起來不夠柔軟,又或是沒有那種冰冷的感覺,前後花了兩年時間,做了三、四個版本,修改至最後一刻,演出前數月才製作出滿意的版本。」最後的版本以錫紙般的金屬物料托底,灑上閃粉的膠條釘合於腰間,層層向外散開,舞動時閃光微晃,舞裙輕柔而透亮,恍如雪花一般。這場雪景也成為了Joanne最喜歡的一幕,「芭蕾舞衣,再配合佈景、燈光,整個畫面很美。」

雪花舞裙於雪景一幕 The Snowflake costume at the Snow scene/攝 Photo:Eric Hong(照片由提供香港芭蕾舞團Photo provided by Hong Kong Ballet)


製作服裝初版後,便要為舞者試身,請他們跳出角色相應的舞蹈動作,進而調整服裝細節,務求舞者能舒適地穿上服裝表演。例如老鼠角色需要戴著面具,做出跳躍等多種動作,更需要小心處理服裝細節,要讓舞者試身多次,再反覆仔細修改。


以上從製作到試身的過程,全由Joanne帶領服裝部的同事合作完成。各人皆身懷多種技藝,按進度需要被指派負責不同工序或項目,包括裁剪、車縫、釘珠、塗色、製作頭飾、定型假髮假鬚等。Joanne自言頗有要求,「如果看到效果未如理想,就會要求修改或重做」。因此每位服裝部員工都經過她精挑細選,兼具手藝和美感,並喜歡接受挑戰,不介意重複修改,力求完美。


香港籌備演出的時間較其他地方短,演出劇目的更換也較密集,舞團往往要同時兼顧多個相當複雜的演出。身為服裝部總監的Joanne,每天都需要東奔西走,與各個部門協調溝通,在緊迫的日程裡,有條不紊地處理大小事項,迅速判斷取捨,適切指示團隊,嚴守品質和進度。這並不容易,特別是這次籌備正值疫情,很多物料延期出貨,例如從印度訂購的裝飾花邊等,Joanne便要即時應變,更改工序安排,預備後備方案。最後雖然順利收貨,但也要趕工序。她笑說:「所以工作時一定要帶腦、錶和水,又要果斷、手腳快,並擁有懂得判別美感的眼睛。」


談到繁重工作、挑戰阻礙,Joanne的語氣仍然充滿活力,流露出她對於這份工作的熱情。「我很感恩自己找到真心喜愛的工作,入行多年,我仍然覺得工作充滿樂趣。我是很喜歡接觸新事物的人,新製作愈難做,挑戰愈大,我愈有精力。看到服裝使畫面更加生動傳神,或更加色彩繽紛,營造出很好的氣氛,觀眾的反應很好,我便會覺得很開心。」


那麼Joanne對於香港的舞台服裝行業的發展有甚麼期望?「現時這一行有些青黃不接,特別缺乏從事服裝製作的新人,所以我很希望有更多年輕人加入,並能夠投放心機和時間學習,用心嘗試,努力去做,不要理會挫敗多少次,不要計較花費多少時間,全心成就創作。」


但她坦言看到部分年輕人不夠韌力和耐性,很想一蹴而就。其實即使資深如她,在服裝製作的過程,仍需要反覆嘗試及思考,經歷繁複步驟。以「紫荊花圓舞曲」的花瓣舞裙為例,當中試用數碼印刷把紗染色,製成花瓣層層重疊,期間需要試驗不同印刷設定在不同物料上的染色效果,顏色不符預期時,便需要思考如何調整重試。她強調這些經驗無法單靠言傳,必須在團隊中共同經歷和學習,故鼓勵有興趣從事這行業的年輕人多學習多嘗試,一起成就優美的作品。

服裝部團隊檢視紫荊花舞裙The Wardrobe team working on the Bauhinia costume/照片由提供香港芭蕾舞團Photo provided by Hong Kong Ballet


我們平日在台下遠看台上的服裝,夢幻得恍如魔法所變,但事實上,誰也沒有揮一揮便能成事的魔法棒,那些「魔法」成就於熱愛創作的投入、日積月累的經驗、持續磨練的手藝。下次觀賞表演時,願你驚歎服裝的華麗精緻之餘,也會想起背後默默付出的服裝團隊,會心微笑。


 

From design sketches on paper to stunning costumes on stage: An interview with Joanne Chong, Hong Kong Ballet Director of Wardrobe


Interview and text: Crystal Yip

Translator: Tiffany Wong


Hong Kong Ballet’s (HKB) new The Nutcracker received the Award for Outstanding Set and Costume Design at the 23rd Hong Kong Dance Awards this year. We were privileged to have the opportunity to interview the company’s Director of Wardrobe, Joanne Chong, who gave us a peek into the story behind the show’s 240 handmade costumes and showed us the magic of transforming abstract paper sketches into dazzling costumes on stage.


It all began around three years ago, when HKB’s Artistic Director Septime Webre came up with the concept for a new production of The Nutcracker. He invited Czech/Australian designer Gabriela Tylesova to design the sets and costumes, with local designer Albert Au as Associate Designer. To realise the new adaptation which integrates local Hong Kong elements, the designers and the wardrobe department, led by Chong, collected huge amounts of information about Hong Kong’s culture, plants and animals, and studied garment details, colour palettes and patterns from throughout China’s history to seek inspiration for the costumes.


After receiving character image sketches from the designers, the wardrobe department began to ‘wave their magic wand’. Letting go of previous versions of The Nutcracker, they started from scratch based on the design requirements, understanding the characters’ needs and fitting with the dancers’ movements, to transform abstract, fantastical colours and lines into wearable costumes that bring each character to life for the audience, while at the same time allowing dancers to move freely.


Looking back, Chong says, “We really faced a lot of challenges. The designers had a lot of three-dimensional designs and stated that they did not want conventional costumes. The emphasis on creating vivid, three-dimensional effects made the whole process very challenging.”


One of the difficulties was finding suitable materials for each costume. Materials used were not limited to fabrics, beads and threads, but also included materials not commonly used in garments like wire, drinking straws and fishing line. They changed the way materials are normally used, melting or bending them to create different shapes, or using stretchable materials to create vivid character images, such as peacock feathers. For the tulle used in tutus, they compared samples of different origins and textures. They finally chose an organza from Germany that had a suitable stiffness, maintaining a solid shape while keeping an elegant, flowing texture which was also easy to dye in brilliant colours.


孔雀服裝設計圖 The design sketch of Peacock/照片由提供香港芭蕾舞團Photo provided by Hong Kong Ballet


The hardest costumes to make were the ones for the Snow Queen and Snowflakes. “The design sketch was so abstract.” Chong says. “I put a lot of effort into deciding on the materials and the execution method, testing several times but still not getting an ideal result. The costumes were always either too heavy, too conventional, too harsh and lacking elegance, not fluid enough when worn by the dancers, or not ‘cold’ enough to express the characters. I spent two years making three to four versions, amending until the last minute and finally produced a version I was satisfied with a few months before the premiere.” The final costume uses foil-like metallic materials as the base, glittering plastic rods stapled to the waist, and layers dispersing outwards. The glitter shimmers when the dancers move and the costumes are light and translucent, like snowflakes. The snow sequence became Chong’s favourite scene, “The costumes together with the set and lighting create a beautiful image.”


After completing the initial version of the costumes comes the time for fitting them on the dancers. By having the dancers perform each character’s signature movements the wardrobe team can refine details of the costume, in order to ensure that the dancers are comfortable performing when wearing it. For example, the Rats had to perform a lot of jumps wearing bulky masks, so a lot of care was required with costume details and more fitting sessions were needed to modify the costumes several times.


The above process, from producing the costumes to the fitting sessions, was carried out by Chong and the wardrobe department team. Each team member brings different talents and skills, handling different parts of the process, including cutting, sewing, beading and embroidery, colouring, making headpieces, making wigs and moustaches and so on. Chong says she has high standards, “If I see something less than ideal, I would ask the team to redo or modify.” Therefore, she handpicks each member herself, choosing people who are well-equipped with craftsmanship and aesthetic sense, and are willing to accept challenges and modify things over and over again in pursuit of perfection.


In Hong Kong, the preparation time for performances is usually shorter than that in other countries, and the repertoire changes frequently. The company often works on multiple complex performances at the same time. As the Director of Wardrobe, Chong travels between different places every day, communicating with various departments. Keeping herself organised in her busy schedule and dealing with matters big and small, she needs to be decisive and give clear directions to her team while maintaining quality and efficiency. This is not an easy job, especially when working during the pandemic, which caused a lot of delays to the delivery of materials such as decorative embroideries from India. Chong had to act quickly, make changes to work arrangements on the spot and make backup plans. Although all the materials finally arrived in time for the performance, they had to hurry to finish the decorations in time. She says jokingly, “That’s why you must bring your brain, your watch and some water to work. You must be decisive, quick, and able to judge what’s aesthetically pleasing and what’s not.”


Speaking of the heavy workload and obstacles encountered, Chong keeps an upbeat tone, showing her enthusiasm for her job. “I am grateful to have found a job that I really like. After so many years working in this industry, I still find my job interesting. Personally, I really like attempting new things. The more challenging the task, the more enthusiastic I am. Seeing our costumes add vibrancy to a scene or creating the right atmosphere, and hearing a positive response from the audience makes me happy.”

服裝部員工的工作照 Workers of the Wardrobe Department at work/照片由提供香港芭蕾舞團Photo provided by Hong Kong Ballet


So, what are Chong’s expectations for the future of Hong Kong’s theatrical costume industry? “At the moment, there’s a lack of new blood in the industry. I hope more and more young people will join us, and devote time and effort to learn, to strive and to do the work with passion. I hope they won’t mind how many times they fail and how much time they need to put in, but will put their hearts into making the production happen.”


Nonetheless she admits that some young people are not tough and not patient enough, and they want to succeed the first time they try. In fact, despite having so many years of experience, she too has to make numerous attempts and undergo complicated processes. Taking the petal dress from Waltz of the Bauhinia Flowers as an example, they tried dying the tulle using digital printing, layering the fabric to form petals. They had to experiment with different print settings on different fabrics. When the colours don’t turn out as expected, they had to come up with adjustments and try again. Chong emphasises that this kind of experience cannot be passed on verbally, it can only be attained by actually going through the process and learning together with the team. She encourages young people who are interested in this field to always learn and experiment and create the perfect costume together.


The costumes we see on stage as an audience look as if they have appeared by magic, but there is no magic wand that, with one wave, produces a finished product. The ‘magic’ that takes place comes from passion for creating, experience accumulated over many years and craft acquired from repeated use. Hopefully the next time you watch a show, as well as marvelling at the exquisite, gorgeous costumes, you will also think about the team who worked day and night to produce those costumes, and appreciate their accomplishment.



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葉懿雯 Crystal Yip

喜歡眼睛閃閃發光的人,

總好奇那些眼睛看到了甚麼。

I am in awe of those whose eyes glitter, makes me wonder what they saw.