AHMAD JOUDEH X STUDIO RIK VERSTEEG

Ahmad Joudeh x Studio Rik Versteeg Collab

After meeting Ahmad in Amsterdam in 2019, I’ve started thinking about a concept for a collaboration. I wanted to create an appealing collaboration with the Triadisches Ballet as inspiration. I’ve been thinking about the Triadisches Ballet for quite some years now and the story behind it always appealed to me.

Ahmad Joudeh is a ballet dancer from Syria living in Amsterdam. Ahmad was born in Damascus in 1990 as a stateless refugee.
Under the civil war, he experienced life-threatening situations, his home was destroyed, and he lost five family members. After witnessing a child killed in a battle, he started working for children orphaned in the war, joining activities of SOS Children’s Villages Syria: holding dance shows for fundraising and dance workshops for orphans in their villages.

In October 2016, Ahmad moved to Amsterdam. He started dancing with the National ballet company of the Netherlands. Now he is a freelance dancer and he’s working on a lot of projects. He has also been contributing to events for raising awareness of the refugee situation.

Portrait I shot of Ahmad Joudeh in my studio.

INSPIRATION.

I did a lot of research about the Triadisches Ballet and soon found out why it has such a remarkable style. The Triadisches Ballet is developed by Oskar Schlemmer in 1921 and helped spread the ethics of the Bauhaus period. They’re using a lot of geometrical shapes, as you can see in the set design and the costumes. The costumes are designed in a way that the dancers are extremely limited in their movements. For my ideas, I made use of the hoops, circles, gold and copper color, and masks which are used in the Triadisches ballet.

If today’s arts love the machine, technology, and organization, if they aspire to precision and reject anything vague and dreamy, this implies an instinctive repudiation of chaos and a longing to find the form appropriate to our times.

oskar schlemmer

WORK PROCESS. 

I made all the costumes, masks, and set designs by myself in the studio with the help of Marjolein, my intern. By creating the props ourselves we wanted to bring back the same feeling. Also, the items I wanted to use were nowhere to be found, there was no other choice than to learn how to sew, stitch, and draw patterns for clothing. For other shoots, I’ve been creating masks and clothing as well, but I can proudly say that this time I designed everything myself which makes this shoot more special for me!

We made 5 different costumes and we made 3 masks by ourselves. Rik also made a belt with a lot of chains and colorful rhinestones. The masks and outfits are of course inspired by the Tridisches Ballet costumes. We used all kinds of elements as inspiration. We used a lot of different materials for costumes and masks. We used copper paper, copper fabric from the market, pearls, and copper wire.

We made the choice to use copper wire in two of the masks because this is one of the key elements of the ballet that we really liked. The copper was bendable and shows a lot of highlights and creates beautiful depth in the mask. We wrapped smaller copper wire around a bigger wire to create a detailed look, it took forever, but it was worth the time! The belt is more inspired by an Arabic influence, the country where Ahmad lived for several years.

We added our own vision and twist to the main elements to create a 2020 version of the costumes of the ballet. We spend a total of three weeks to create outfits, masks, and set design.

SET DESIGN.

For the set design, we wanted to have a lot of depth and a dynamic flow. We painted two big walls in a grey gradient. We also found gold and silver foil which was surprisingly awesome to work with. This foil was very important for the set design because of the flow and liquid feeling. The foil created a lot of highlights and shadows in the visuals which was a perfect match with the costumes.

For the floor, we used a marble and checkerboard design. It created a surrealistic and high-end ambiance in the set.

For the portrait with the copper mask, we made use of wave mirrors to create depth and a surrealistic vibe. We placed one mirror under the model and one mirror on the side of the model. The structure of the mirror fits very well with the wavy shape of the mask.

For the portrait with the pearl mask, we used a blue filter in front of the lens and a mirrored glass plate behind the model. The blue filter in front of the lens creates a mysterious and underwater look. It also made the light softer so the pearls would have much more shine. The blue filter generally makes the picture bluer. We stumbled upon this idea by accident, but it worked out really well.

SHOOT TIME!

The studio shoot went very well. We started with a meeting and explained what we wanted to accomplish with the shoot. For Ahmad, this shoot was a little bit out there, and more extreme than his previous shoots, but he was very excited about it as well.

Marjolein helped with building the set during the shoot. She also kept an eye on details, lighting, and other important details.

We haven’t really had struggles during the shoot. Every now and then the image had to be perfected and some details needed to change. We had prepared everything in advance to make sure we could focus completely on the visual during the shoot.

The first set was already built in the studio, meanwhile, Ashley Prins started with the make-up for the first look. Ashley created five different makeup looks for this shoot. She used pink, blue, green, red, yellow, and green make-up. These colors matched beautifully with the costumes and set designs and masks. Each look took Ashley for around 30 minutes. She did a really great job and awesome job!

We are really happy with how the shoot turned out. It was a long but very rewarding day!

Stay tuned because the results will be published very soon!

Blogpost and Video by Marjolein van Schaik
Model: Ahmad Joudeh
Make-up; Ashley Prins

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