“When [choreographer] Ron [Brown] presented his ideas to me, he spoke of a time of day, maybe predawn, where there is a stillness, but the air is not clear; it is hazy,” says the London-born, Nigeria-raised Olaiya, who now lives in Brooklyn. “The first image that came to me was gray, but not a dull gray, a gray that warmed with the light. I felt the design required texture to speak to that time of day.”
In the end, Olaiya’s biggest challenge designing for the performance, which tells the story of “four angels standing on the four corners of the earth holding the four winds,” was “turning ideas into clothes that people can dance in.” She ultimately went with natural-hued, lycra-based fabrics in both solid and abstract prints that drape beautifully and evince “angelic warriors.” Click ahead to get a sneak peek at her sketches and fabric swatches.
Photo: Courtesy of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater/Paul Kolnik
“My inspiration begins with my understanding of the piece, then a picture comes like a daydream. I go back to Ron with my dream, and he says with a grin, 'Wow, Wunmi, that's what I'm talking about.'”
Sketch: Courtesy of Omotayo Wunmi Olaiya for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, "Four Corners"
When asked if she was happy with her results, Olaiya responded: “Often we are asked for simple. Simple is a very complicated nuanced thing. There comes a point when I feel I've answered that simplicity…and yes, I am happy.”
Photo: Courtesy of Omotayo Wunmi Olaiya for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, "Four Corners"