On my first day at Smuin Ballet, I joined Company Manager, Jo Ellen Arntz, at the studio to work on costume fittings with the dancers for the premiere of “Ask Me,” by Choreographer Adam Hougland set to the music by Joan as Police Woman. The design process for the costumes was extensive as each dancer was interviewed and research was conducted to create unique pieces for each performer.
As we walked up the staircase into the studio for fittings, I was excited as I have designed and constructed my own clothing designs as well as done some costume work for the theater, but this was my first experience working on costumes in the dance world. It was thrilling to have this chance to work with costume designers Sandra Woodall and Birgit Pfeffer, as well as all of the Smuin dancers.
When we entered the studio to assist with fittings, it was magical. Birgit had me doing all kinds of things: taking notes, pinning name tags in each of the dancer’s final pieces, and even rushing to save her from a last-minute parking ticket. I enjoyed watching Birgit, Sandra, and Jo Ellen collaborate with each other and the dancers to custom-fit their looks and decide what pieces would become their final costumes.
It was thrilling to see how each dancer has specific needs. For instance, Josh Reynolds tried on two different pairs of funky overalls for fit, fabric wash, and length. It was decided that he would wear a longer, darker-colored pair as they not only looked better, but Josh also felt that he could move more freely without much restriction ¾ very important in a dance costume.
Watching the choreographer give feedback to the dancers not only in rehearsal but also in costume fittings was fantastic because he was involved in each step of the process. Hougland was present at every costume fitting, and was closely watching Sandra and Birgit work while giving his input on the fine details. It was a memorable and educational experience watching how Hougland works both in and out of rehearsal, and especially with each of the dancers.
As expected, several pieces had to be altered, and more accessories needed to be made and ordered. Parts of costumes, such as the bottoms of Erica Chipp’s exquisite piece, had an elastic band added to enhance the look of the costume. Once seeing the creations come alive, we realized that Nicole Haskin’s costume needed a skirt, which will most likely be bought off the shelf. The costume designers decided to drape different fabrics to create a stunning bustle effect.
I also attended some of the rehearsal that day. This experience was fascinating, because Hougland’s piece “Ask Me” was a style of ballet that I had never seen before and I loved it.
At the end of the day, whether big or small, all of the costumes needed something done. Though it was tiring, the day went very quickly, and it could not have been a more perfect start to my summer internship at Smuin Ballet.
** Written by Taryn Lewis
Performances of the UNLACED Dance series run in Walnut Creek May 29 & 30 and Carmel June 5 & 6!
To purchase tickets Click here or call 415-912-1899
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