Interview with Aviad Arik Herman, dancer/ fashion designer, costume designer for Castrati, a world premiere by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa

Photo by Ami Elsius.

Aviad Arik Herman, dancer/ fashion designer
Born in Israel in 1983, Aviad studied at the Bat-Dor Beer-Sheva Municipal Dance Center in Israel and later at the Royal Conservatory in The Netherlands. He danced as a soloist with KAMEA Contemporary Dance Company, Israel, the Gothenburg Opera Ballet in Sweden, and also performed with Labyrinth Dance Theatre in NYC, American Pacific Ballet Company in California, and toured the world with Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.

As a fashion designer, Aviad has studied at the Art College in Gothenburg, Sweden and designed costumes for freelance choreographers and dance companies such as Cullberg Ballet, The Gothenburg Opera Ballet, and The Swedish National Ballet School.

Aviad is a recipient of many prestigious dance scholarships and awards. In 2010, he was a finalist in Fresh Fish in Gothenburg, Sweden’s annual fashion fair and contest for promising fashion designers.

Q: How did you become a dancer? What inspired you to keep growing as a dancer?

AAH: As a teenager, I danced with a Folk dance company as a hobby, where the dancers would encourage me to go to a professional ballet school and develop my talent. A dear friend of mine was a student at one of the greatest dance schools in Israel – Bat Dor Beer-Sheva Municipal Dance Center. I followed her there at the age of 17. At Bat Dor, I was fascinated to see the students with their high level of technique and discipline and I felt I want to achieve that as well. I realized I had a long way to go if I want to become a professional dancer and I dedicated myself to the hard work it required.

I received scholarships and awards during those years to support my artistic development by America-Israel Cultural Foundation, Princess Grace Foundation in Monaco, The Mia Arbatova Foundation in Israel and more.

Q: When you dance, how important your costume is to you?  

AAH:  As a little child, I remember how I always liked to sit close to the stage each time I went to the theatre so that I could see all the details of the costumes, from top to bottom. To me it has always been a big part of the magic once the curtain opens.

As a performing artist myself, my costume is very important. Its contribution to the atmosphere, the look and the different feeling it gives when I am wearing it – are all valuable to me.

Q: What brought you into fashion design, especially dance costume design?

AAH:  From a very young age, I used to always draw and sketch on female figures, to express my creativity and imagination. I have often used my sketches as a diary, having my experiences, feelings, thoughts and memories as an inspiration for my designs. I appreciate and admire women’s elegancy, aesthetics and beauty, and like to complement their femininity, strength and sensuality. I believe I am very much influenced by my mother who is a multi-artist herself, and my grandmother who used to work as a professional seamstress and make costumes for Flamenco dancers when she still lived in Spain back in the days.

I have always wished to be working as a designer in the future.

In 2006, I was asked by a Canadian freelance choreographer in Sweden to design the costumes for her new dance production. This has been an exciting and successful experience for me and has brought me to the attention within the dance and theatre industry in Sweden. I have been commissioned to design for freelance choreographers, dance companies such as Cullberg Ballet in Stockholm, the Gothenburg Opera Ballet, and the Swedish National Ballet School.

Q: What is the history of your artistic collaborations with choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa?

AAH:  In 2007, Annabelle was commissioned to create a new ballet for the Gothenburg Opera Ballet which I have been working with. This was the first time I worked with Annabelle as a dancer. The creation process was very pleasant and joyful for the entire company, and not only had I liked her movement style and creativity but also to discover her warm personality, her enthusiasm and professionalism.

Q: What can you tell us about your costume design work for Castrati?   

I was very happy and flattered when Annabelle asked if I would be interested to design her costumes for Castrati, her new creation for BalletX. I know she had always been designing her costumes herself, so it was a great complement for me knowing she trusts me.

Annabelle’s vision was to have derivatives of wear of 1700 (Farinelli’s time), and yet to have them abstract. She knew she’ll be using bright fluorescent lights in the piece so she wanted the costumes to contrast that, as being in warm colors and preferred them to be in gold. These were the directions I received from her. I liked her ideas very much and felt I have a lot of creativity freedom to propose to her my vision for Castrati.

I had to design a unique costume for each dancer, it was a true fun to give them their own identity through the costume. I wanted to create a very personal and individual look for each of the characters that would flatter their bodies, the movement and the entire piece. The classical castrato music and electronic mix were very inspiring for me to design the costumes as well.

Soon after we started working on building the costumes, Annabelle had an idea of using masks in a section of her ballet. I was very inspired to create those masks and felt they would not only complement the costumes but complete them! Eventually the dancers and Annabelle liked them so much that she decided to have the dancers wear them throughout the entire piece. I believe this has helped them to relate to their characters better, to get into their world and develop their personal nature.

I was also happy to team up and work with Mr. Rufus Cottman who realized my vision and sketches to real garments with a great ambition and a lot of respect for this collaboration.


A rehearsal photo from Castrati – which showcases the masks Aviad created for the dancers (on photo L to R: BalletX dancers Laura Feig, Chloe Horne, Anitra N. Keegan, and Tara Keating; Photo: Rebecca Golembeski).

Q: What is the costume history behind your designs?

AAH:  With the opportunity to design the costumes for Castrati I did a lot of research about its history and the period. Ideas from costumes of the 16th and 17th centuries were inspiriting but not the only.  I wanted the costumes to be first of all comfortable for the dancers to wear and move with, to include a periodic touch and yet to be fashionable and glamorous and reflect my personal style and taste.

Q: Having designed for other dance companies, do you see anything different about your experience with BalletX?

AAH:  I enjoyed very much working on this production of BalletX. And not only enjoying working as a designer, but also discovering the wonderful people who work with BalletX. It has been a pleasure to collaborate with the company, and I can point out a very personal treatment which I very much appreciate.

Q: What are your other favorite things to do, besides dancing and designing?

AAH:  I like to study languages and be able to communicate and understand people with their own language. I can speak Hebrew, which is my mother language, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, and also understand some Italian, French and Arabic.

I also like to cook and eat a lot (!), I am very open to try new foods of different cultures. Swimming and horse-back riding are things I enjoy doing in my free time as well.

BalletX Summer Series 2011
July 20-24 at The Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Wednesday, July 20 at 8:00 PM, with post-performance Q-and-A
Thursday, July 21 at 8:00 PM
Friday, July 22 at 8:00 PM
Saturday, July 23 at 2:00 PM, with post-performance Q-and-A
Saturday, July 23 at 8:00 PM
Sunday, July 24 at 2:00 PM

Tickets: $30, Senior $25, Student $20, on sale at The Wilma Theater Box Office,  265 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-546-7824 or at