Guest Writer: Laura Lynch, wardrobe manager
As we open our 2011-2012 season, Wardrobe is just wrapping up a whirlwind Academy Summer Intensive and a partial build of costumes for Cincinnati Ballet’s new Nutcracker.
The new season begins with Wardrobe requesting fittings on the dancers’ first day back. Fittings determine the fit and function of the costume. Return of the Masters consists of 3 ballets, all rentals from other ballet companies. Once Houston Ballet determines that we will use rented costumes for a particular production, Brian Walker, production manager, gets the ball rolling and secures the rental contract. Together we look at timelines and determine when we’ll need the costumes here to begin our process.
When the rental arrives the work begins for Wardrobe Assistant Barbara Joyce Evans. She opens up the boxes and inventories everything. Also included in most cases is a costume ‘bible’ (paperwork or book that has all the information needed to set up the show). The next step is to size the costumes for assignment to our dancers cast.
Communication is key in each phase of the process. Requesting fittings is the next step in the process and this is done through the Artistic Coordinator Daniel Morin. The dancers come to Wardrobe at the scheduled fitting date/time and are fit in all the costume pieces being worn for whatever role they are dancing. The number of costume pieces and/or roles each dancer has determines how long or how many fittings are necessary.
For all productions we like to include the choreographer/choreologist/designer in the process as early as possible to check details. We have a design meeting to discuss the costume head to toe, as well as hair and make-up needs. We never want surprises once we get on stage.
Once the costumes are fit they are then turned over to Sara Seavey, wardrobe shop supervisor, who organizes the work to go into the workroom. The shop technicians are instructed on the costume notes needed to get the costumes ready for stage. The physical work can be restoration, alteration, repairs and/or new construction. If ballet slippers or shoes need to be painted this happens during this part of the process.
Deadlines are the name of the game in all that Wardrobe does. Once the costume notes are completed the show is organized for the move to the theater for the tech rehearsals, dress rehearsals and performances. At the theater an entire new process begins in the journey, but that’s another story.
Return of the Masters runs until September 18, so there’s still time to see the beautiful dancing and costumes at Wortham Theater Center!