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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Step Inside the U’s School of Dance Costume Shop

The U’a School of Dance Utah Ballet show presents a unique challenge: approximately 50 costumes for two casts, totaling 70 dancers in four ballets, all made by this small costume team.
School+of+Dance+Costume+Shop+student+worker+Feb.+2%2C+2024.+%28Photo+by+Haley+Freeman+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29
School of Dance Costume Shop student worker Feb. 2, 2024. (Photo by Haley Freeman | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

There are four distinct sounds to be heard in the Marriott Center for Dance: The music travels from studios and the stage; dancers leap and shuffle across the marley floors; voices carrying corrections echo along the halls; and deep within, the sewing machines drum.

Intimate Costume Shop

Located near the backstage doors of the theater, the Marriott Center for Dance costume shop resides. Overseen by Christopher Larson, the intimate costume shop welcomes its team of employees and students from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. every weekday. As I spoke with Larson, Clover Kelly, Makayla Cussen, Madeleine Mann and the student workers, I was in awe of the beautiful costumes and the hard work put in behind the scenes.

Christopher Larson and the Costume Shop team pinning up a “Serenade” costume to a mannequin on Feb. 2, 2024. (Photo by Haley Freeman | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

It is assumed that making costumes for a show is hard work. However, the University of Utah’s School of Dance Utah Ballet show presents a unique challenge: approximately 50 costumes for two casts, totaling 70 dancers in four ballets. Every costume in the show is made by this small costume shop team. 

The costumes for “In the Theater of Air,” “Elemental Alignment” and the Led Zeppelin scored piece “Bring it on Home” were a simpler affair than for “Serenade.” “Serenade” costume work began in Nov. of 2023, a month before auditions for the ballet were even held.

“Serenade” tutus, Feb. 2, 2024. (Photo by Haley Freeman | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

The process starts with Larson making designs, involving costume research and prototyping. For “Serenade,” the blue leotards paired with light blue and tan tulle long skirts, Larson and his team looked at Ballet West’s costumes, vintage design references and New York City Ballet costumes, resulting in an assortment of prototypes. Next, patterns get cut for leotards, and tulle is cut, dyed and sewn: 260 panels of tulle to be exact.

Vintage “Serenade” costume reference photos, Feb. 2, 2024. (Photo by Haley Freeman | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

The costume department is proud of the aesthetic of their costumes and even more proud of the comfort, making sure all dancers feel supported and unrestricted in their dancing. The movement of “Serenade” involves a lot of jumping, bending and skirt swooshing, meaning the costumes need to be able to handle all of this as well.

‘Blueberry Boy’

The day I stopped by the shop, work was underway for the male costumes, one of which is affectionately named “Blueberry Boy.” The male costumes present their own challenges. While there is no tulle, the costume team had to find belt material for the centers of the costumes as belting is out of practice in present day clothing. Larson describes that when they found belting material it was a huge relief and was a very exciting find. Also, the ballet flats for the men have to be hand painted blue. 

“Blueberry Boy” costume for “Serenade,” Feb. 2, 2024. (Photo by Haley Freeman | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

Holds Up to the Test of Time

While “Serenade” may be most recognizable for its iconic choreography, Larson believes that when the costumes are put on stage the ballet “holds up to the test of time.” It was fascinating to hear about the process of how these costumes get made. As with everything in dance, the better you are at your job, the easier your work appears to the audience. The costumes look flawless, which further signifies the hard work of the costume department these past four months. 

Further projects like this one are possible at the School of Dance with your support. If you are a ballet lover, or have yet seen a production, I urge you, now is the time to go. Get tickets at the School of Dance website, or at the stage door. U students get free tickets with their UCard. Shows run Feb. 22 periodically through March 2.

 

[email protected]

@haleyfreee

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About the Contributor
Haley Freeman, Arts Writer
Haley Freeman is a sophomore mechanical engineering major at the University of Utah. She was born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, and now is based out of South Carolina, when not traveling or at the U. She enjoys all things ballet, film, photography, and literature. When not writing for the paper, you can catch Haley working sage tech at the Marriott Center for Dance, spending time with her Alpha Chi Omegas, or frolicking in the snow.

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