Happy Halloween, dance friends! Wearing costumes is part of our job description, so when we get the chance to create our own, it's no surprise that we get a little #extra (in the best way, of course). Check out some of our favorite dancers' spooktacular ensembles.
There’s nothing like an over-the-top costume to take a performance to the next level. An extreme look can help create a character, intensify choreography or maximize a dancer’s beauty. But dramatic dance fashions—which might include anything from an epically huge skirt to an elaborate bead cape—can also be difficult to manage. Here, five dancers discuss the challenges and transformative aspects of their most out-there costumes.
Yuan Yuan Tan
Principal, San Francisco Ballet
Tan and Lloyd Riggins in Neumeier's The Little Mermaid
(Photo by Erik Tomasson, courtesy San Francisco Ballet)
“My costume for the title role in John Neumeier’s The Little Mermaid is definitely challenging. The ‘tail’—which is actually a pair of extremely long pants—is very easy to trip on. Onstage, I have to be aware of how it might impact other people. But it’s such an important element of the performance. In rehearsal, I worked very closely with Mr. Neumeier, whose direction gave me the courage to embrace the mermaid character and take it on fully. By the time I started working with the costume, I was already the mermaid mentally. Putting it on made my transformation complete. It added another layer to the character and made my interpretation much more emotional.”
Principal, Houston Ballet
(From left) Gonzalez, Steven Woodgate and Rhodes Elliott in Romeo and Juliet (Photo by Amitava Sarkar, courtesy Houston Ballet)
“When I played Juliet in Stanton Welch’s Romeo and Juliet, I was privileged to have costumes made for me. So from the beginning, I felt attached to them. They’re so beautiful—the designer, Roberta Guidi di Bagno, paid attention to every detail. The biggest challenge is that they’re period costumes, so they’re made from a ton of heavy material. In rehearsal, most of the time I’m only wearing leotards and tights and maybe a skirt. When
it’s time to dance in costume, I have to get used to all the extra stuff. It’s just fabric everywhere!”
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
(Photo by Pierre Wachholder, courtesy Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater)
“My costume for Jessica Lang’s Splendid Isolation II is a big, beautiful, dramatic skirt. I quickly learned that it has a life of its own, especially when I turn or walk. I have to stay grounded, keep my feet planted and use a lot of toe tricks to adjust the fabric without the audience noticing. But the beauty of live theater is that you have to adjust to the flow of each moment without panicking or losing your intent. The solo is very ethereal. Wearing such a massive skirt makes me feel like I’m reaching beyond myself, like I’m dancing through the clouds.”
(Photo by Max Pucciariello, courtesy MOMIX)
“I have a five-minute solo in Botanica where I’m wearing a 14-foot-long curtain of beads. It’s attached to my shoulders and whirls around me as I spin. We call it ‘Big Skirt.’ I’ve probably performed the solo 500 or 600 times, and it’s still tricky, every time. If I don’t spin fast enough, the beads end up tripping me. Sometimes the weight of the costume makes me lose my balance, or the beads get tangled. And I can’t get too close to the wings or the audience—I don’t want anyone to get hit! But eventually the costume becomes part of me. Over the course of the solo, its movement takes on more importance than the actual movements of my body.”
Mary Lyn Graves
Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company
(Photo by Fred Hayes, courtesy Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company)
“The Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company performs a lot of Alwin Nikolais’ historic works. Sometimes we’re wearing costumes that are decades old. In Nikolais’ choreography, the costumes are an integral part of the movement vocabulary. Often, they’re an extension of a kinetic idea. For instance, in Noumenon, created in 1953, each dancer is encased in a silver elastic bag that stretches with her, catching the light as she moves. It’s a complete transformation of the body.”
Few people love dressing up as much as dancers. So it comes as no surprise that some
of our favorite performers routinely steal the spotlight on the craziest dress-up holiday of the year: Halloween. Dance Spirit gathered some favorite looks from dancey Halloweens past.
(Photo courtesy Gillian Murphy)
Isabella Boylston, American Ballet Theatre principal, as...Maddie Ziegler in Sia’s “Chandelier” music video
“I didn’t have time to buy a costume last Halloween, but someone brought an extra platinum-blond wig to the studios that day, which reminded me of the ‘Chandelier’ music video. I just threw on the wig with a leotard and went to class. It turned out to be pretty funny.”
(Photo courtesy Nick Lazzarini)
Nick Lazzarini of Shaping Sound as…Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing
“Last Halloween, the members of Shaping Sound decided to dress as, um, dead celebrities. I wore this amazing wig that just shouted Patrick Swayze, a black leather jacket and jazz shoes. I also brought a baby doll that I kept throwing into corners. Why? Because ‘Nobody puts Baby in a corner’! It was a big hit.”
(Photo courtesy Sarah Daley)
Sarah Daley of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater as…a Newsie
“I always wanted to dance through the streets of NYC like the Newsies boys, so I put together this costume during my sophomore year of college. My dad lent me the suspenders and newsboy hat, and I carried the New York Times as a finishing touch. As a bonus, the costume was warm enough for NYC in October and easy to move in—which is good, because I definitely acted out a few scenes from the movie!”
Dancers of Miami City Ballet as…Cruella de Vil and the dalmatians from 101 Dalmatians
“When I found this great Cruella wig, I knew I had to use it. Then a few of my fellow MCB dancers came up with the idea to be my dalmatian pups. We each put our costumes together separately, and surprised each other right before company class on Halloween. I loved that they even painted their pointe shoes with black spots!”—MCB corps dancer Samantha Galler
Samantha Galler as Crella de Vil with dalmatians (from left) Jennifer Lauren, Ashley Knox, Leigh-Ann Esty and Nicole Stalker (photo courtesy Leigh-Ann Esty)
Pacific Northwest Ballet Professional Division students as…the cast of Toy Story
“When my class decided to dress as the characters from
Toy Story, my red hair made me Jessie the cowgirl by default. All I needed was a hat and some duct-tape designs on my shirt. At PNB, we get awards for the best Halloween costumes in different categories. We won the prize for ‘Best Group Costume’—and taking class all dressed up was so much fun!” —PNB Pro Division student Gabbi Nielsen
(Below) Gabbi Nielsen (back row, fourth from left) and PNB Pro Division first-year students (photo courtesy Gabbi Nielsen, Pacific Northwest Ballet School)
Dancers of Atlanta Ballet as…Olympic gymnasts
“This was right after the 2012 London Olympics, and we really wanted to re-create the ‘McKayla Maroney is not impressed’ meme that was going viral. I found these plain long-sleeved red leotards online, and we bedazzled them with gold rhinestones. Rachel Van Buskirk, who dressed as McKayla herself, has some gymnastics skills, but the rest of us thought it was safer to stick to ballet instead of flips.” —AB dancer Jackie Nash
(From left) AB's Alessa Rogers, Lisa Barrieau, Rachel Van Buskirk, Kiara Felder, Jackie Nash and Alexandre Barros (photo courtesy Atlanta Ballet)
(Photo courtesy Allison Holker)
Commercial stars Stephen “tWitch” Boss and Allison Holker (and daughter Weslie) as…superheroes
“For Halloween, everyone in our family chooses their own costumes—and we all just happen to love superheroes. Last year, we each picked a power. Next step: Conquering
the world!” —Allison Holker
(Photo courtesy Lauren Fadeley)
Pennsylvania Ballet principals Lauren Fadeley and Francis Veyette (and their pets) as…the cast of The Wizard of Oz
“I was Dorothy for Halloween in kindergarten, and I never forgot how much fun it was to wear ruby slippers. I made it a family affair by incorporating my husband, Francis, as the scarecrow; my cat, Lily, as Toto; and our dog, Emmett—whom everyone always jokes is big as a lion—as the Cowardly Lion. Of course, Emmett stole the show with his yellow feather boa mane. He even acted pretty cowardly at our Halloween party, since people scare him.” —Lauren Fadeley
Last week, we all got a sneak peek at New York City Ballet's most recent fashion collaborations. This week, we have a chance to get even closer to the costumes created by top couture designers for the company's fall gala on October 30.
NYCB released a video going behind the scenes and into the costume workshop as these amazing creations come to life. Maybe this will give you some far-out fashion inspiration for the week!
It's no secret that we're as obsessed with pretty costumes as we are with the pretty dancers who wear them. There's just something so magical about following the life of a tutu, or going behind the scenes to see how costume shops take their creations from the page to the stage. Costumes also hold a special place in every dancer's heart.
Which is why, when we stumbled upon this Fashion magazine article, we did a little happy dance. Fashion followed National Ballet of Canada principal Greta Hodgkinson (who's celebrating her 25th year with NBoC and her 20th year as a principal in the company) into the wardrobe room—and had her round up her favorite costumes of all time. Which was no small feat, considering Hodgkinson has danced pretty much every principal role in NBoC's classical repertoire. NBD.