Extreme Costumes

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.”

Karina Gonzalez

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!”

Fana Tesfagiorgis

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.”

Jennifer Chicheportiche

MOMIX

(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.”

 

Latest Posts


Because there's never been a better time to binge-watch "Bunheads" (via Freeform)

5 of the Danciest TV Shows Streaming Right Now (and Where to Stream Them)

We're about two months into #SocialDisDancing, and let's be real—while we all wish we were spending every spare minute stretching, cross-training, or taking online classes, sometimes we just need to Netflix and chill.

We figure, if you're going to be watching TV anyways, why not make it dancy TV? After all, watching pros dance on-screen is basically dance class homework...or at least we'll say it is. Here are five of the danciest TV shows for you to watch—and where to find them.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
The cast of Center Stage in a promotional poster (courtesy Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

The Making of "Center Stage," as Remembered by Its Dance Stars

Whether you first watched it in a theater two decades ago or on Netflix last week, odds are you feel a deep connection to Center Stage. The cult classic, which premiered May 12, 2000, is arguably the greatest dance film ever made. (Dance obsessives might take issue with the "cult" before "classic," not to mention the "dance" before "film.") Jody Sawyer's ballet journey—which combines oh-wow-I've-had-those-blisters realism with wait-does-she-have-magic-color-changing-pointe-shoes fantasy—stands the test of time, early-aughts fashion be darned. We've memorized its highly quotable lines, laughed with (and, gently, at) its heroes, and been inspired by its sincere love of dance and dancers.

To celebrate Center Stage's 20th anniversary, we asked five of its dance stars to talk through their memories of the filming process. Here are their stories of on-set bonding, post-puke kissing scenes, and life imitating art imitating life.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

2020 Dance Grads: We Want to Put You on Our Cover!

Hello, all you members of the great Dance Class of 2020. With the world on lockdown, this hasn't been the graduation season you expected. You likely weren't able to go to prom; your commencement ceremonies have probably been delayed or canceled; and you might not have been able to take your planned-for final bow onstage.

Since you're missing out on so much, we'd like to give you a virtual ovation, to recognize all you've accomplished. And what's the highest honor we can bestow? The cover of Dance Spirit!

Here's the plan:

  • If you're a high school or college senior dancer, use this form to submit your information and dance portrait.
  • Each day during the month of May, we'll create a digital Dance Spirit cover starring one of you, chosen at random—31 covers in total.
  • At the end of the month, we'll create a "commencement video" featuring even more of your submitted dance photos.
  • 100 of you, selected by lottery, will also receive free one-year subscriptions to the print magazine.

Merde, 2020 graduates, as you dance your way into the future!

High School and College Senior Dancers: Submit Your Photo Here

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search