Maybe it’s in the genes, but Stella McCartney sure knows how to put on a show. In a thrilling fashion season that boasted not only strong collections (Mary Katrantzou, Commes Des Garçons, Sarah Burton’s one-two punch at McQ/McQueen) but also genuine fashion moments (Raf’s exit from Jil Sander, Alber’s 10-year anniversary at Lanvin, that Vuitton train) Stella’s special London presentation (and her first in the capital for 16 years) will go down in fashion history as a night to remember. Following a black tie dinner at a majestic deconsecrated Mayfair church; guests including Kate Moss, Rihanna and Shailene Woodley were treated to a stage show featuring a magician levitating a hypnotised Alexa Chung on a bed of swords. Then to a shriek of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song, a staged fight broke out between a guest and a waiter erupting in a highly choreographed modern dance routine involving dancers decked out in Stella’s contoured hourglass sheaths and marble-printed bubble dresses and the supermodels, Amber Valetta, Shalom Harlow and Yasmin Le Bon borne aloft on chairs and dancing on table tops. And the elegant Spanish woman outfitted in Stella’s monochrome cutaway suit pirouetting into the centre of the maelstrom? None other than the orchestrator of it all – choreographer, Blanca Li.
"I really admire fashion people because for me when I see them working and creating, I see artists with the same excitement as I have and I love to share it with them."
Born in the Andalusian city of Granada to a family of seven siblings; Li trained as a gymnast with the Spanish national gymnastics team before moving to New York to work under the renowned modern dance pioneer, Martha Graham. After a childhood spent on the strict disciplines of ballet and gymnastics, Blanca had finally found an outlet where she could be free. “What I really learnt from working with Martha is that she has a very concrete technique. I understood that you could be yourself and that I could be Blanca and I could invent my own technique and do my own shows and try to be myself in my dance.” Forming her own company in 1992, Li has gone on to choreograph everything from the instantly memorable video for Daft Punk’s Around The World to collaborating with Christian Lacroix on a ballet and directing Coca Rocha in a film for Longchamp. Her love of fashion started when she was living in Paris living with friends who were designers and stylists - her first ever show had costumes designed by the famed stylist, Sibylla. “I really admire fashion people because for me when I see them working and creating, I see artists with the same excitement as I have and I love to share it with them.” Much like her multidisciplinary approach, her work defies categorisation; drawing from everything including old school Hollywood musicals, hip hop, flamenco, ballet, modern dance to even the underground Parisian dance craze of Tecktonik which inspired her latest raucously inventive show, Elektro Kif.
Blanca first met with Stella when she choreographed a ghostly dance sequence for a Michel Gondry-directed video for her father, Paul. “We talked about working for so long,” she muses, “Then when she had the idea to do something that was not a normal fashion show, she called me.” Having two days to rehearse the dancers and the models prior to the show, Blanca found the similarities between her dancers and the supermodels striking –“They both know without the mirror how they look. I think good fashion models know exactly how to be in front of the camera. They have complete control of their faces and their bodies.” Working with the iconic likes of Amber and Shalom proved a breeze for the indefatigable Blanca. She recalls gleefully, “They were great – they were very open and they were having a lot of fun. They were so cool and so easy. I think everybody was very excited to do something so unexpected.” The visceral collision of the worlds of fashion and dance brought back heady memories- think of Victor & Rolf’s waltzing same-sex couples serenaded by Rufus Wainwright or Michael Clark choreographing a dance marathon for Alexander McQueen. For Li, whether collaborating in the worlds of fashion, art or film, it’s just another means of transmitting movement. She adds, “If I could provocate just one person to wake up in the morning and say they want to dance, then I’m happy.”
Electro Kif is touring now.