Interview with Zhanna Kens – dance costumes designer from Florida, USA. Zhanna’s experience includes creating and designing many of the dresses for the number one hit show “Dancing with the Stars” on ABC television.
Danceway: Please tell us about yourself…
Zhanna: I was born in the Far Eastern part of Russia, in the small town of Magadan on the sea of Okhotsk.
Danceway: Why did you become a costume designer and what makes it rewarding work?
Zhanna: Growing up I had dreams of becoming a fashion designer. I started making clothes for my dolls when I was 5 years old and I continued to design and make clothes for my friends and myself.
After high school I moved to Moscow where I continued to create and I established a clientele in the fashion industry. In 1994 I immigrated to the United States. It was here in Florida where I rediscovered my passion for fashion after many years of self-introspection.
Danceway: How do you choose design for your costumes?
Zhanna: Often times it is the customer who inspires the design, personality, the color of the hair, eyes, skin tone as well as body type play a large role in the design of my costumes.
Danceway: What type of material is used for designing a DanceSport customer?
Zhanna: I work mostly with stretch and drapery fabrics and chiffon and silks are used for skirts and floats. For embellishments I use Swarovski crystal, unique beads, silk flowers and anything else that lends itself to the design. Each dress has a life of its own although there are deadlines to meet. I work as long as necessary to ensure that the dress is finished on time and that it meets my unusually high standards.
Danceway: Have you designed costumes for films? How did designing many of the dresses for the number one hit show “Dancing with the Stars” on ABC television come about? Zhanna: I have not yet designed costumes for films but if the opportunity comes across I will take it gladly. I was fortunate to work for the company that was enlisted to design and make dresses for the show and I was one of the lead designers at the time. The design process to me is a free-flowing and natural expression of my artistic self. Each design has a life of its own and dictates to me where it wants to lead. Today I am emerging as one of the freshest young designers making artistic and exceptionally crafted and tailored dancewear that will set you apart and create a feeling of uniqueness in your personal style.
Danceway: Do you have specific costume designer who influence you?
Zhanna: John Galliano’s designs have been an inspiration for me, Cristian Dior, Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier as well as Donatella Versace, with her use of vibrant colors and flowing designs. Danceway: Do you have a favorite costume designer? Zhanna: John Galliano, his spectacular and wild extravagance, free form designs places him on the top of my list. Danceway: What advice you would like to give for dancesport costumes design? Zhanna: Because dancesport costume designs is constantly evolving it is very difficult to give any advice on the direction that is taking. There are always new exciting opportunities in dancesport designs. So if I had any advice it would be to keep exploring your creativity and staying passionate.
Danceway: What is your favorite ballroom dance?
Zhanna: Without a question, Tango. The passion and the dynamics between the dancers is mesmerizing to me. The emotion of the dance makes me relate to so many aspects of life.
Danceway: Who is your favorite dancers?
Zhanna: Although there are so many beautiful and talented dancers, my favorites would be Victor DaSilva & Hanna Karttunen…Their theatrics and unity as well as their strength and spectacular presence are inspiring.
Danceway: How many languages can you speak?
Zhanna: I currently speak only two languages, English and Russian.
Danceway: Which language do you feel most comfortable speaking? What do you speak at home?
Zhanna: I am more comfortable speaking Russian, but at home I speak English because I don’t have many Russian friends where I live.
Danceway: What else would you like to share?
Zhanna: I love what I do. There’s no greater feeling than to have my clients tell me how much they appreciate my work. To me dance is the poetry in motion and the dress is the word that defines the feeling.
Danceway: What do you dislike most about your job?
Zhanna: I have no dislikes about my work. There are some challenges but each day is a gift for me to express my creativity.
Danceway: As a conclusion can you tell us about Your plans for the future? Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Zhanna: I would like to expand my design business to include creating costumes for ice dance and skaters because I think seeing my work on ice perhaps even in the Olympics would be extremely rewarding. Since my childhood my heartfelt burning desire has been to establish a ministry which would …cater…to orphans through out the world based on the philosophy of Christianity with the healing gift of art, passion for fashion, music, dance, horses and sports.
(Exclusive Interview for danceway.com, August 2006)