A few weeks ago at Paris Fashion Week, designer Rick Owens enlisted the help of step dancers for his runway show. Four different teams of dancers, some from American college sororities, some from professional dance troupes, wore his designs while dancing step routines. Then for the finale all the women danced together.
To augment the aesthetic of his collection, which is called Vicious, he asked the dancers to dance with a serious, even fierce, expression known as grit face.
(If you don’t see the video embedded above, you can watch it here.)
I love to dance, and I love to watch dance. When I see other dancers giving so much of their physical and emotional selves, I feel again how I feel when I dance. So I enjoyed watching the first five minutes or so of this video. But then I stopped, figuring I had the gist.
I was curious, though, so I read this article on Fader, which interviews the choreographer, LeeAnet Noble. I found much of the interview extremely interesting. When she initially contacted the sororities, they didn’t believe her at first. So Rick Owens came to the U.S. for the first time in 15 years to meet with them and convince them to dance for him.
Some of the dancers were used to dancing in grit face, but some were used to smiling while dancing, so they had to practice accessing that more primal part of themselves.
She also talks about the overwhelming support they received in Paris after the show, the bits of controversy the show caused back home, and of how moving the experience was for so many of the dancers.
Knowing all this backstory of course made me want to finish watching the video, so I watched the rest of the 11 or so minute show. Well, let me just say that it is so worth watching until the end. There is a point, around eight and a half minutes in, when all the dancers form a line and take turns facing the audience and dancing in place for a few seconds before making way for the next dancer. The first few dancers are 100% in, fully fierce, fully in the moment and owning it. They simply took my breath away. But as the line continues, some of the dancers seem to be feeling a whole variety of emotions.
Watching them I could imagine how I would feel, dancing in such a strong way and in front of such an intimidating crowd. To be so vulnerable and yet so strong, while it appears to come easily to some of the dancers, I imagine was equal parts liberating, cathartic, and exhausting for others. Or at least, that’s how I imagine it would be for me.
At the end all the women join arms and dance as one. I was moved to tears by this point. It was so beautiful.
Traditional beauty was present, yes, with the coordinated dancing, the smooth and glowing skin, the great wild hair, and the draping in the clothes going on everywhere. But the beauty that really got me comes from a deeper place: from the sisterhood of women supporting each other, from the human expression of deep and primal emotion, from the courage it takes to be yourself when you feel different, and from the fierce strength life sometimes requires of us.