Dancing up a sewing opportunity at UMaine

Posted March 07, 2011, at 9:59 p.m.

Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the seventh annual International Dance Festival at the University of Maine. This extravaganza of music and movement was staged by approximately 100 students, both on stage and in the wings. It was lively, colorful and enchanting. Admission was free and it played to an appreciative full house. It was organized by the Office of International Programs and the International Student Association, with additional financial support from UMaine’s Division of Student Affairs, student government, Residents on Campus and the Cultural Affairs-Distinguished Lecture Series.

The production showcased the dance traditions of India, Malawi, Central Africa, United States, the Middle East, Vietnam, Iran, Brazil, Latin America, China and Japan. One of the delightful things about the dance numbers was that, in many instances, the dancers’ ethnicity didn’t necessarily reflect the country where the dance originated. For example, the dancers for the salsa number weren’t Latin American — they were Pei-Hsin Kuo and Caroline McBride. But what the dancers all had in common were energy, enthusiasm, talent — and great costumes, which brings me to the point of this column.

Sarah Joughin, international student adviser, said, “In the beginning [at the first festivals], the dancers took care of their own costumes, often using tradition costumes.” Dancers also found costume items at Goodwill, which they transformed by replacing sleeves or embellishing and altering to suit the need. But as the festival grew, costume needs changed and grew, too. This year a team of volunteers assembled to sew costumes. This was no small feat, involving, for example, the colorful dresses worn by the Iranian dancers and the tunics, turbans and swirling skirts with lots of golden, glittering trim for the 15 dancers in the Black Bear Bollywood Bash. The crew that designed and produced the festival costumes were Pamela Ruiz, Shannon Brenner, Mary Moreau, Shirin Khavari, Jennifer Jain, Kathy Lyon and Sarah Joughin.

“I took everyone [the dancers] to the fabric store and they chose their fabric,” Joughin said. The most challenging thing about making the costumes, she said was “that everything [about making the costumes] happened very fast.” The costumers had approximately one month to create and organize costumes for the dancers. “It was fun,” she said.

Joughin said she is open to hearing from members of the community at large who have sewing skills who may wish to volunteer to help with making costumes for the 2012 edition of the International Dance Festival. She said seamstresses who have fitting skills and who have knowledge about which fabrics to use for which costumes also would be nice to have — “people who really know how to sew and who are creative,” she said. Volunteers, she said, could take some things home to sew or bring portable sewing machines to work with a group.

Those who wish to volunteer for costume sewing duty for the next International Dance Festival may call Sarah Joughin at 581-3423 to obtain more information.

Snippets

The Bangor Area Chapter of the American Sewing Guild will offer a class on Cotton Theory at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, March 12, at Hampden Municipal Building. This is a quilt-as-you-go technique and can be reversible. The cost of the class is $10 guild members, $15 others. Starter kits will be available. Call 941-8815 for more information or to register.

Ellen Russell is in need of cotton fabric in “awesome/interesting prints” for the team that sews wine wraps that benefit the Susan G. Komen Maine Affiliate Race for the Cure. Each gift wrap for a wine bottle takes one-fifth of a yard of fabric. Also needed are old wool sweaters that are used to make felted wine sleeves. Helping hands with sewing machines also are needed. Since October the team has raised $1,905 for the cause. For more information, e-mail teamcristy@aol.com or call 944-1441.

The 2011 Lowell Quilt Festival, featuring Images 2011, a judged and juried quilt show, in Lowell, Mass., is open to entries. Entry form and submission guidelines can be downloaded at www.lowellquiltfestival.org.

Mary Bird passed along this website address, a source of historical knitting patterns: http://knittinghistory.typepad.com/historic_knitting_pattern/. The site includes knitting patterns from 14th to 15th century Europe to the 1960s. Some fun! She also mentioned a blog about Great-grandmother’s Baby Booties. Google this and you will be taken to Sharon Bryant’s blog.

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