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(photo credit: Courtesy Photos)
"At 24, just having broken up with my boyfriend and starting again, I never imagined I would come this far," says Karin Bar, lighting a slim menthol Vogue cigarette as she leans back in a plush, leather armchair. From her humble beginnings in a one-room studio in Tel Aviv six years ago, Bar has graduated to a tenth-floor, three-bedroom apartment with a view.
"When I started designing costumes, I had one room for the bed, the sewing machine, the kitchen and the costumes," she says, smiling at the memory. "It was a crowded situation."
Born in Haifa, Bar was raised in the coastal city of Eilat. After high school, she returned to Haifa and studied graphic design.
"I applied to be a nurse in the army, but they lost my file," says Bar. "I called them for two straight years, kept getting told they would eventually contact me but did not have my information on hand. I finally gave up, started studying, and I have yet to hear from them."
At exactly twenty, Bar moved to Tel Aviv to try her hand at becoming a professional dancer.
"My Mom is a belly dancer, and I always loved to dance, so I came to the one place in Israel that I thought I could find work: Tel Aviv," Bar says. But a dancer's income was far from sufficient, so in the mornings Bar manned a vegetable shop and in the afternoons she worked in a hair salon.
"I danced for weddings and events, and by the time I was 22, I was dancing in clubs."
But it wasn't until a boyfriend asked her to fix a pair of trousers that Bar realized her penchant for sewing.
"I had no idea how to sew, but when I sat down at that machine and started mending his pants, I knew immediately what I wanted to do with my life."
After the epiphany, Bar began designing and sewing clothes for her fellow dancers and fell more and more in love with the work. To improve her skills, she enrolled in classes at the Vogue School of Fashion Design and took a job as an assistant to a fashion designer.
"I learned the trade from the inside out before I felt ready to start my own company," says Bar. "I wanted to gain experience before I started working professionally." In 2001, Bar opened the doors of her new company, The Israeli Center for Performance Art, and today she sends dancers to various events all over the country.
"I started out only working with clubs like Forum in Beersheba, but after three years, I had enough costumes to branch out into private events," says Bar. "Today I have all kinds of costumes, from jungle animal furs to outlandish, EL wire space suits. I send performance artists to bar mitzvas, weddings, birthday parties, costume parties, or anywhere else that people want to liven up the atmosphere or create a special mood," says Bar.
IN ADDITION to private functions, Bar sometimes works with companies to design custom costumes for marketing and advertising. At the opening of a new branch of Caf Caf in Bat Yam a few weeks ago, Bar sent two performers in 18th-century ball gowns to entertain customers. Complete with proper lace corsets and folding, hand-held fans, the dancers sipped tea under embroidered parasols like polite British royalty.
"It certainly got people's attention," says Bar. "And that's generally a good thing for marketing." For her nephew's recent bar mitzva, Bar sent a group of dancers in slinky dresses with plastic guns and colorful boas. As the theme song for 007 played, the outlandishly dressed performers crept carefully around tables and corners like secret agents.
One of the most important elements for Bar is that her work stretches beyond just fancy costumes and into the realm of performance art. From her perspective, the dancers behind a mask are also actors, and their movements need to suit their attire. If they don glowing, electric wire, their body language needs to reflect the frenetic quality of the electricity; if they have on a soft, fluffy angel, their movements should be light and airy.
"People often tell me that I make their event," says Bar. "I enjoy creating strong emotion, and I love the challenge of always making new costumes and constantly coming up with fresh ideas to suit each client and the atmosphere they want to produce."
In the future, Bar hopes to see bigger and better things in the company. "I want to bring in more elements on a larger scale, like gigantic fountains or more lights, and I hope to start doing some international shows," says Bar.
"I believe that everything happens for a reason, and when you do what you truly love, you succeed in ways you never dreamed possible."
For more information, visit Karin Bar's website at www.meitzag.com or email her atKarin@meitzag.com