Archive for the ‘Wardrobe’ Category

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Holly Hynes Creates Tuxedos “Worthy of the Red Carpet” in The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra

March 5, 2014

From March 6 – 16, Houston Ballet will unveil the world premiere of Stanton Welch’s new version of The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, set to the beloved score by Benjamin Britten and featuring costumes designed by Holly Hynes. 

Costume sketch by Holly Hynes

Costume sketch for The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra by Holly Hynes

Ms. Hynes has enjoyed a long, distinguished career as a costume designer, with commissions from the Royal Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet, among many others.  She has collaborated with Stanton Welch on eleven productions, including The Core, his homage to New York City in the 1940s, and Brigade, his delightful classical showpiece created in 2006.

Holly Hynes - Headshot

Holly Hynes; Photo by Paul Kolnik

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Houston Ballet:Your costumes for The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra seem inspired by tuxedos and have an air of 1930s Hollywood glamour. Can you talk about your concept for the costume design of The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra? 

Holly Hynes: Stanton and I had been working on this idea for months. Batting around several different looks, we finally settled on an “orchestra uniform” for all, men and women, I wanted to come up with a glamorous streamline look for the main body of the ballet. Adjustments had to be made to the tailcoats so the dancers could move. But for the real meat of the choreography, I wanted something worthy of the red carpet: something tailored but showing their amazing bodies.

Houston Ballet: You’ve worked with Stanton Welch on several projects. Can you describe your collaborative process, and how it worked for The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra?

Holly Hynes: This is my eleventh ballet with Stanton. He’s created some wonderful ballets for me to design all over the United States but the experience has been the best in his own backyard at the Houston Ballet. The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra is very special to me because I worked with Jerome Robbins and have supervised the recreation of Irene Sharaff’s designs for his Fanfare for the New York City Ballet and Miami City Ballet which is set to the same music. To hear this piece played by the masterful Houston Ballet orchestra is a treat. But to watch the Houston Ballet dancers interpret Stanton’s vision in my clothes is a blessing.

Because I am based on the East Coast, our first meeting was in Central Park in New York City over coffee on a beautiful sunny day. I love that our collaborations are based on hard work but we always manage to get laughter and fun in there too. My first drawings were on little scraps of hotel note paper. Stanton is so trusting and we have worked well together for so long that even those little scratches could turn into full costume renderings. Of course living in two different cities, the internet has made our process much easier.

 Costume sketch 4

Costume sketch for The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra by Holly Hynes

Houston Ballet: Can you talk about your collaboration with Houston Ballet’s costume shop in constructing the costumes for The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra? When did you first provide them with costume sketches? How did you interact with them? 

Holly Hynes: Houston Ballet has a wonderful brand new costume shop in the Center for Dance. The workroom is filled with old and new friends. Wardrobe Manager Laura Lynch, who runs the department, is the first person after Stanton to receive the sketches. This is my twelfth build with Laura and we often finish each other’s’ sentences.

Our first conversation centered around budgets. We decided it would be more cost efficient to try and purchase the tailcoats but to make the pants and shirts and cummerbunds. That said, this started us on a long journey of trying to find black material and off the rack coats that would appear to be the same color on stage. The fabric needed to stretch as well, and extra jacket material had to be bought so we could add gussets under everyone’s arms.

Laura found some interesting fabrics and samples were made. But when I came in for my first trip, I didn’t love any of them. Next we went back to High Fashion Fabrics where I found a wonderful stretch fabric for all the pants. We held our breath while the store tried to find the right amount of yardage for us.

Costume sketch 3

A month passed and I flew in from New York a second time, and we fit the first cast which is over 30 dancers. Costume Shop Supervisor Sara Seavey, who is in charge of the work room, was amazing at keeping the fittings on time and everything tagged and organized. Not one dancer missed a fitting, something I wish other companies could boast about. Not sure how the tailors and drapers keep all parts together since from a distance it is a sea of black and white sameness. Follow up fittings and second casts were seen without me, but by then everyone owned the ballet.

I flew in last Thursday for the technical rehearsal and now we are waiting to begin the dress rehearsals leading up to the opening.

Houston Ballet: What was the first project on which you collaborated with Stanton Welch as costume designer? Did you realize at the time that it would lead to such a long and fruitful collaboration?

Holly Hynes: When I was Director of Costumes for the New York City Ballet I also had an active career designing both for the company and for outside ballet companies. One group, called the Chamber Dance Project, had invited a young choreographer from Australia to create a new piece for them. I was already working with them on another piece so they asked me to design for Stanton as well.

It is always scary to be suggested for a collaboration when you don’t know the other partner. Stanton couldn’t have been nicer and we immediately spoke the same language. He had grown up behind the scenes at The Australian Ballet with his performing parents and spent many an hour running around the costume shop. He has a great eye, and we have a very similar love of color.

Over the years he has really helped me find my voice as an artist. I owe him a lot as a friend and as a collaborator. The name of that first ballet was Kisses…I think that says it all.

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Houston Ballet will perform The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra March 6 – 16 at Wortham Theater Center.  Also featured on the program are Stanton Welch’s ballets Maninyas and the company premiere of Of Blessed Memory.  Tickets start at $19, and may be purchased at www.houstonballet.org

 For more information on this program, visit:  http://www.houstonballet.org/Ticketing_Schedule/Season_Calendar/Young_Persons_Guide/

To watch a video preview of The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra:

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Behind the Scenes of Aladdin: Christopher Gray Flies High as the Djinn of the Lamp

February 28, 2014

Christopher Gray and Artists of Houston Ballet

Christopher Gray as the Djinn (Genie) with artists of Houston Ballet; Aladdin; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

-by Stephanie Brown, Public Relations Intern

David Bintley’s Aladdin, which continues in performance through Sunday, March 2, has a way of enchanting the audience with beautiful, unique props and exquisite, colorful costumes. I had the honor of attending Aladdin on opening night, and I swear I was under some mystifying spell; each intermission was a startling call back to reality. I didn’t want it to end! What was even more exciting was the chance I had to go backstage at Wortham Theater Center and see the props up close and personal. Below are some photos for your viewing pleasure!

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Behind the scenes shots by Stephanie Brown

One of my favorite characters in Aladdin was the Djinn of the lamp (the Genie), and demi soloist Christopher Gray danced his heart out. I was intrigued by his experience in creating his own version of the the Djinn of the lamp (the Genie), so we asked a few questions about the role.

Watch video of Christopher Gray as the Djinn in Aladdin.

Houston Ballet: Tell us about dancing as the Djinn of the lamp (the Genie). What are the most challenging aspects? What are the most exciting?

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Christopher Gray; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

Christopher Gray: Hands down, one of the most challenging things is that some of the magical reveals were hidden in set pieces for long periods of time before some pretty difficult dancing.  So it’s the opposite of what you would normally do, which is to stay moving, keep yourself loose and then go out and dance. Being crouched down in a small space before having to dance is pretty difficult.

For the most exciting thing, this is my third time flying in ballet, and I always love doing that. The audience always really appreciates it. On opening night during the first scene with the levitation, everybody applauded. It was great! So that’s always exciting for me. It’s a challenge as well because you’re at the mercy of the wire when you’re up there. There’s not too much you can do to keep yourself from spinning or swinging, so it’s learning how to do those small adjustments without putting yourself in a counter rotation.

Houston Ballet:  Explain your wardrobe. How do you feel about being painted completely blue?

Christopher Gray:  Fortunately, it’s not completely blue. I don’t have to paint my legs. This in terms of ballet costumes is not so difficult to dance in, which I always like. Sometimes we have pounds and pounds of clothing and wigs we have to deal with, so this is relatively simple. [I wear] just a small vest and baggy pants

Aladdin César MoralesPrincess Badr al-Budur Nao SakumaThe Mahgrib Iain MackayThe Djinn of the Lamp Tzu-Chao ChouAladdin’s Mother Marion TaitThe Sultan, the Princess’s father Jonathan PaynAladdin’s Friends James Barton, Mathias Dingman

Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet; Aladdin; Photo by Bill Cooper

Any time you don’t feel constricted by a costume, which I don’t because there are even shirtless scenes for me, it’s a lot easier to deal with. I prefer pants over tights any day of the week! In terms of wigs, Amanda, our wig and makeup person, has done a great job of making a wig that fits really flush to our heads. We just have a little bit of hair, like a top knot pony tail, which I don’t feel impedes my ability to turn and it doesn’t knock me off center, which is often a problem with costumes.

Being painted blue is hard. I’m there around 6:15 for a 7:30 start time.  And that includes not even being on stage until a good 40 minutes into the first act. Overall, I face about an hour and a half worth of body makeup, face makeup, and wigs. It’s difficult and, once again, the opposite of how you would want to get ready for a show…you know, standing there half naked for an hour and a half. I do throw warm-up clothes back on top, but you don’t want to sweat the makeup off. It’s a fine line you have to deal with. I’m getting pretty used to being painted, though. I think this is my third or fourth color!

Houston Ballet:  What do you do to get in character for the the Djinn of the lamp (the Genie)?

Christopher Gray:  As the body makeup and especially face makeup and wig come along, I feel like that’s part of my transformation. We have these wicked eyebrows and drag queen style makeup.  So it’s hard not to look at yourself with a little bit of humor when you see the character staring back at you.

If anything, the one thing that I have been doing is going over the mime section to try to create an aura of power, confidence, mystery, and a little bit of humor as well. Trying to work the fake eyebrows has been fun. As the shows progress, you find more time and space for that on stage and then the character grows from there.

Artists of Houston Ballet

Artists of Houston Ballet; Aladdin; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

Houston Ballet:  What do you like about the props and costumes for Aladdin?

Christopher Gray:  One of my favorites is probably the most simple: the lamp that lights up. I think it’s very effective on stage. Those few times Aladdin lifts it up and then there’s a big crescendo in the music when it turns on and starts glowing…I think that’s fantastic! Also, the magic carpet is done really well.

I wish I could see the show from the front, but unfortunately that’s not in the cards for me. The lion dance in the second act is a big crowd favorite, and I also dance the head portion of the lion. It’s a lot of fun to do that. It does pose a problem because it’s difficult to hear the music, though. When you start shaking the head all you hear is rattling!

You can see Chris Gray dance the the Djinn of the lamp (the Genie) in Aladdin on Friday, February 28 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, March 1 at 7:30 pm.

Houston Ballet continues its performances of Aladdin through Sunday, March 2 at 2:00 pm at Wortham Theater Center.  For tickets and more information, visit:  https://www.houstonballet.org/Ticketing_Schedule/Season_Calendar/Aladdin/

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Making Magic Happen Behind The Scenes In New York At The Joyce Theater

November 4, 2013

Houston Ballet has been extremely busy during the month of October, preparing for two major tours: to New York’s Joyce Theater from October 22-27; and to the Theatre des Champs Elysees in Paris, France October 31 – November 4.

Joyce Banner 2013 HB

Image Courtesy of Houston Ballet

Over the last decade Houston Ballet’s Director of Production Brian Walker has managed the production aspects of Houston Ballet’s tours to Moscow, Spain, Montreal, New York City, and to many cities small and large across the U.S. In this blog entry, Brian discusses the challenges and rewards that Houston Ballet’s production staff faces when the company takes to the road.

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 Brian Walker; Photo by Kaye Marvins Photography, Inc.

1.)  If Houston Ballet opened at the Joyce on Tuesday night, when did the Houston Ballet crew arrive in NYC to get ready for the show?

We arrived Sunday evening and started working Monday morning at 9am.

2.)  How much time did production have to tech the show in Manhattan, compared to what you would have in Houston?

We loaded in for 8 hours on Monday and had 4 hours Tuesday morning. Our typical load in before the first tech rehearsal consists of about 36 hours total.

3.)  Does having 7 shows a week (-vs- our usual 4 shows a week in Houston) present any special challenges for the wardrobe department in terms of laundering the costumes?

Mary Clare (our wardrobe person) did have to stay late after each show to do laundry, but that’s a normal part of our process. On Saturday, when we had two shows, it was definitely more of an ordeal trying to get things cleaned and dried between shows. Mary Clare didn’t have a crew to assist, so she spent a lot of time during the matinee working to get things started so she had enough time to get it all done. 

4.)  What are the challenges of working in a much smaller theater (Joyce with 500 seats) versus working in your home theater, Wortham Theater Center (2300 seats, and our home venue)?

Because the Joyce doesn’t have the ability to fly any of their legs or other goods out, they have to come up with creative ways to get rid of things. 

 Play (Ian Casady and Artists of Houston Ballet)

For Stanton Welch’s ballet Play, for example, Stanton wanted to reveal the back wall.  When we did the ballet at the Wortham, all of the legs, borders and up stage goods were flown out to reveal the backstage. At the Joyce, the legs cannot fly out and are hard flats, so they don’t go away. The upstage goods had to be “west coasted” which means bundling and tying them to the pipe that they’re hanging on. 

Lisa J. Pinkham - Joyce Lighting

Lighting Designer, Lisa J. Pinkham; Photo by Brian Walker

Play also used several moving lights in the original version. Our lighting designer Lisa Pinkham had to adapt those looks to conventional lights for the Joyce because we didn’t have moving lights, nor the time to program them.

5.)  What has it been like to work with the Joyce tech staff?

The Joyce Tech Staff are fantastic. They’re really good at what they do and have a keen eye on how to approach their venue and are very helpful in getting our show up and running.

6.) What’s been the most challenging aspect of the tour for production?

The most challenging aspect for this tour would have been putting Play back together. It’s been several years since we’ve done the ballet, and it was only done by Houston Ballet on the Wortham stage. 

Touring often requires an adapted version of shows we do at home, but having to adapt Play on the road to a unique venue, not having done it recently presented some challenges. It definitely gave us a place to start the next time we present the ballet outside the Wortham and we have a better idea of how Stanton would like to approach the ballet.

7.) What’s been the most rewarding aspect of the tour for production?

The most rewarding aspect for Stage Manager Michelle Elliott was getting to perform in New York. We all dream at one point or another of getting to do a show in New York City. This was Michelle’s first time stage managing a show in New York and she really enjoyed the experience. 

Stage Manager Michelle Elliott - Joyce HB

Stage Manager, Michelle Elliott; Photo by Brian Walker

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From Storyboards to the Stage: The glamorous costumes and jewelry for The Merry Widow

September 16, 2013

Guest Writer: Ashley Roberts, Wardrobe Intern

First as an operetta in 1905 and as a ballet in 1975, The Merry Widow has been performed on countless stages around the world. Choreographer Ronald Hynd’s glamorous production is once again being produced by Houston Ballet September 19-29 at Wortham Theater Center. Featuring lavish and spectacular scenery by Italian designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno, The Merry Widow takes place in 1905 Paris, the ballet is comprised of two love stories. One story is about previous lovers and the other about forbidden love. However, the spotlight is on the wardrobe. As a Wardrobe Intern I got to sit in on a fitting for The Merry Widow. I even got a chance to repair some of the jewelry pieces used in the show and additionally got to attend the first technical rehearsal for The Merry Widow. I never saw The Merry Widow performed or had any background information of the ballet before I started interning.

The Merry Widow_ Artists of Houston Ballet 2N9Y9460

Ballet: The Merry Widow; Dancer(s): Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

My introduction to The Merry Widow started by completing storyboards for all the characters in the show. A storyboard is made of pictures or illustrations that comprise a story. The finished boards are then put in the dressing rooms of the dancers. They give the dancers and dressers, who come to help get the dancers in and out the costumes, a visual idea of their completed look. The wardrobe of the two main female characters Hanna and Valencienne stood out the most to me. Hanna, a wealthy widow, and Valencienne, the wife of a nobleman, have four different wardrobe changes each. The women are dressed in bodices made of rich velvets that are designed with attention to detail and are outfitted in gowns that sparkle.

 Storyboard The Merry Widow

An example of one of the storyboards that are placed in the dancer’s dressing rooms.

My favorite part of the wardrobe in The Merry Widow are the accessories! Almost every character has a set of accessories. In Act III the women have tiaras and the men carry top hats. The most meaningful accessory is a little pink scarf. Danilo pulls out a handkerchief that Hanna gave him many years ago as young lovers in Act I and of course Hanna is surprised. My favorite accessory for Hanna is a feathered shawl that is floor length in Act III. My favorite accessory for Valencienne is in Act I where she is wearing a chandelier necklace that lights up the stage. The Merry Widow has a great plot, fabulous wardrobe and is sure to fill your heart with delight!

Merry Jewelry

Valencienne’s necklace that she wears in Act I. The necklace has French elastic at the bottom that hooks into the bodice of Valencienne’s costume so the necklace won’t fall off or hurt the dancer on stage.

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From September 19-29, 2013, Houston Ballet revives Ronald Hynd’s deliciously comic love story, The Merry Widow, featuring spectacular scenery and costumes by Italian designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno. Set in turn of the century Paris, this production has it all:  lilting waltzes by Franz Lehár; saucy can-can girls, glamour and champagne; and a wonderful love story featuring an unlikely couple, separated in their youth, who rekindle their lost romance.

Tickets may be purchased by calling 713 227 2787 or by visiting http://www.houstonballet.org.

Watch a video preview of Ronald Hynd’s The Merry Widow.

 

 

 

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Choreographer Melissa Hough: Inspired by Machiavelli, The Moonwalk, and Gabriel Prokofiev

September 4, 2013

From September 5 – 15, Houston Ballet launches it 44th season with Four Premieres, featuring three world premieres and the American premiere of Christopher Bruce’s Intimate Pages. Choreographer Melissa Hough has been hard at work in the studios on  her new piece, …the third kind [is] useless. For this week’s blog, Melissa takes time out from rehearsals to explain the sources of inspiration for her ballet.

C Walsh and Artists of Houston Ballet - Amitava

Ballet: …the third kind is useless; Dancers: Connor Walsh and Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

1.) Tell us about the music you chose for your new work.  Who is the composer? Why were you drawn to this particular piece of music?

Melissa Hough: The music I chose is String Quartet No. 1 by Gabriel Prokofiev, grandson of Sergei Prokofiev! I was drawn to this music because of its edginess, rhythmic intricacy and dark sense of humor (all attractive qualities to me).

2.) How many dancers are in your ballet? Does it have a specific structure, with different movements?

Melissa Hough: The ballet is 15 minutes long and has 4 movements. I am using 13 dancers and 4 musicians to create mayhem :)

3.) What type of movement vocabulary are you using for your new work? Neoclassical?  Contemporary? Will the ladies be on pointe?

Melissa Hough: I am using a wide range of vocabulary. Each movement is completely different from the next, so I used emotional themes to create the style for each movement. There is a bit of a story that goes with my ballet and the arc of the story is what ties it all together. I have everything from a la seconde turns and double tours to the moonwalk and conga!

IMG_6284_Melissa Hough and artists of Houston Ballet

Melissa Hough at Houston Ballet; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

4.) Tell us about your choreographic process. Do you enter the rehearsal hall with the steps choreographed in advance and a firm conception of what you want the ballet to look like when it’s finished? Or do you begin working with the dancers with no fixed idea in mind, open to the inspiration of the moment and what comes from your collaboration with the dancers?

Melissa Hough: My process is a little different each time. Often it has to do with how much time I will have to work in the studio. For this particular piece, I knew exactly how many hours I would have to initially create it, which was really helpful! I worked on the concept and story for a long time on my own prior to starting with the dancers. All the steps, however, were made in the moment and then worked and tweaked up over time.

5.) Tell us about the title of your work. Where does it come from?  What does it mean?

Melissa Hough: The title is a fraction of a quote by Niccolo Machiavelli, whose work has been a big inspiration for this piece. He talks about how there are three kinds of intelligence and…….the third kind is useless.

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Ballet: …the third kind [is] useless.; Costume Sketch by Monica Guerra

6.) Are there any specific ideas or themes that you are exploring in …the third kind [is] useless.?

Melissa Hough: Containment, auto phobia, the use of classical mime and power.

7.) Is there anything else that you would like the audience to know about …the third kind [is] useless.?

Melissa Hough: I am hoping I’ve created something that is intriguing and interesting. Watch it with an open heart and having had caffeine prior to sitting in your seat because the ballet moves very quickly!

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To learn more about the other works on Four Premieres, running September 5 – 15, watch this video interview with Stanton Welch and 

Christopher Bruce about the program.  For more information and to purchase tickets, visit:  http://www.houstonballet.org/Ticketing_Schedule/Season_Calendar/Four_Premieres/

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The Return of Choreographer Garrett Smith

August 23, 2013

On September 5, Houston Ballet will launch its 44th season, unveiling a new work by choreographer Garrett Smith as part of the program Four Premieres, running September 5 – 15. Garrett got his start as a choreographer in 2007 at Houston Ballet Academy, where he created five works for Houston Ballet II. He then joined the professional company, dancing with Houston Ballet for three years, and winning the prestigious Fellowship Initiative Grant from the New York Choreographic Institute. In 2012, Garrett joined the Norwegian National Ballet.

 Garrett Smith - Courtesy of Norwegian National Ballet

Garrett Smith; Image courtesy of Norwegian National Ballet

For the last three weeks, Garrett has been hard at work on Return, his first commissioned work for Houston BalletIn this blog entry, he talks about the inspiration of John Adams’s music and the sense of gratitude he feels to be coming home to his dance family in Houston.

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The music that I selected for my new work is by John Adams. I decided on using “Short Ride ” and also “Harmonielehre pt. III” I have never listened to much of John Adams before, but these two pieces I found were quite energetic and big. They made me want to dance, and I immediately got visuals of bodies on stage. Stanton seemed to be right on board and supportive of this decision which was very good. What was also exciting about this selection of music, is that John wrote back personally within about two weeks of asking for the music rights. It felt like this was the right choice.

The music is big and calls for larger cast. I saw many bodies filling the stage. Ideally I plan to use six men and six women. I don’t want the cast to be too big. I still want it to feel intimate and friendly, and also special to the dancers.

There isn’t necessarily a story to follow, but more of an experience between a group of friends. In my mind I feel that this group of  friends have traveled to a secret place that is special to them.

I decided to give the title of “Return” to the piece. There will be two movements:  one very energetic and explosive movement, and another energetic and sort of mystical movement. The title is slightly symbolic to me. Not only do these characters as good friends “return” to a place that is special to them within the piece. But this work is also my return back to Houston, or should I say my dance home.

Cave Lake Image

For me the setting is inside of a cave. But it can also be open to interpretation as the set is not so literal. Production director Brian Walker has helped me find a way to keep the idea with a more abstract and minimal approach. The cave element has served as a great source of inspiration for lighting and costume ideas. Ever since I found out about the commission, I have been surfing for photos online, as well as a few movies that were compiled into an inspiration album that I shared closely with my costume designer Travis Halsey, and lighting designer Lisa J. Pinkham, who is Houston Ballet’s lighting designer.

Garrett Smith Sketch 1

Sketch by Travis Halsey

I am very happy to have Travis do the costumes for this piece. He designed the costumes for my first big choreographic opportunity when I was in Houston Ballet II. He has now designed four of my ballets. I always knew I would ask him to design something for a big opportunity like this on Houston Ballet.

I am also very excited about Lisa being the lighting designer. I have seen many pieces she has designed for Stanton Welch. She is very talented and I have full trust in her ability to make something spectacular.

I am coming back to a place that is very special to me, Houston Ballet, where many of my close friends and dance family are. It feels like coming back home, but also now as choreographer. I feel it is the best way I could ask to come back. I am beyond excited to also return, and create something special here.

-Garrett Smith

Garrett Smith Headshot 2 - Courtesy of Norwegian National Ballet

Garrett Smith; Image courtesy of Norwegian National Ballet

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From two choreographers at the beginning of their careers and two of the world’s most respected and sought after, comes a program of all new works. Acclaimed by The London Times as an artist who “could change the face of British dance,” master Christopher Bruce’s Intimate Pages conveys the joy and the anguish of unrequited love in a deeply moving ballet of strong emotions and powerful actions. James Kudelka, hailed by the New York Times as “the most imaginative voice to come out of ballet in the last decade,” stages his second commissioned work for the company. The program also features new ballets by Garrett Smith and Melissa Hough, both winners of prestigious awards from the New York Choreographic Institute, both who got their start choreographing on Houston Ballet.

Tickets may be purchased by calling 713 227 2787 or by visiting http://www.houstonballet.org.

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Costumes for Return Take Flight September 5-15

August 19, 2013

From September 5-15, Houston Ballet will open its season with Four Premieres, unveiling a new work by Garrett Smith entitled Return, set to the music of John Adams and featuring costumes by Travis Halsey. In our blog this week, we would like to share some of the initial costume designs by Mr. Halsey for Return and show you how the working is currently taking shape in our wardrobe department, which is translating Mr. Halsey’s vision into reality.

Garrett Smith - Sketch 2

Travis Halsey is originally from Springfield, South Dakota, and received his BFA in Theater Arts from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. His extensive experience working in theater and ballet includes stints with Nebraska Shakespeare Festival, Omaha Community Playhouse, Black Hills Playhouse, Omaha Theatre Ballet, Houston Ballet and Dominic Walsh Dance Theater, for which he designed a new production of Sleeping Beauty. Mr. Halsey has won numerous awards for his designs, including  first place in regional design at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival for his work for Omaha Theatre Ballet’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice. In 2008, he collaborated with Monica Guerra to design the costumes for Stanton Welch’s A Doll’s House for Houston Ballet.

Garrett Smith Sketch 1

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From two choreographers at the beginning of their careers and two of the world’s most respected and sought after, comes a program of all new works. Acclaimed by The London Times as an artist who “could change the face of British dance,” master Christopher Bruce’s Intimate Pages conveys the joy and the anguish of unrequited love in a deeply moving ballet of strong emotions and powerful actions. James Kudelka, hailed by the New York Times as “the most imaginative voice to come out of ballet in the last decade,” stages his second commissioned work for the company. The program also features new ballets by Garrett Smith and Melissa Hough, both winners of prestigious awards from the New York Choreographic Institute, both who got their start choreographing on Houston Ballet.

Tickets may be purchased by calling 713 227 2787 or by visiting http://www.houstonballet.org.

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FROM CONCEPTION TO CREATION: THE COSTUMES FOR MURMURATION AND THE RITE OF SPRING

March 8, 2013

Houston Ballet’s veteran wardrobe manager Laura Lynch collaborated closely with two of three choreographers featured on Houston Ballet’s The Rite of Spring mixed repertory program March 7 – 17 to help them realize their visions for the costumes for their works.

_MG_5849 copy_Karina Gonzalez and Simon Ball

Dancers: Karina Gonzalez and Simon Ballet; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

For Edwaard Liang’s ballet Murmuration, Ms. Lynch served as costume designer, along with Mr. Liang. For Stanton Welch’s world premiere of The Rite of Spring, Ms. Lynch realized the costume designs conceived by Mr. Welch.

Here is her journal of how she worked with the choreographers to realize their different visions.

CHOREOGRAPHER EDWAARD LIANG’S MURMURATION

Guest Writer:  Laura Lynch, Houston Ballet Wardrobe Manager

Edwaard Liang and I met via email. We then had a couple of phone conversations. He sent me a video of “murmuration.” (a phenomenon in Europe where starling birds flock together and make beautiful shapes and patterns in the sky), filmed in the wild. We discussed the simplicity he wanted in the design.

Edwaard was concrete in his decision that all women would have one look and that all men would have one look. The shop then took direction and created mock-ups for Liang to look at his first day here. Edwaard is a true collaborator. He thrives on hearing others’ opinions as well as seeking guidance when he is stuck.

Although he knew he wanted the ladies in a leotard, he wasn’t sure about the drape he wanted to soften the look with. After looking at the first round of mock-ups, we determined that a flat tab of fabric would better serve the simplicity he was looking for.

_MG_5907 copy_Karina Gonzalez and Christopher Coomer

Dancers: Christopher Coomer and Karina Gonzalez; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

The leotard color also changed as we discussed the color of the birds.  Black leotards became gray leotardss and the chiffon tabs were shortened and the hem angled. We also decided to hombre (gradation of color) the chiffon tabs to better show the body. For the men, a simple pair of pants.  The decision together came in the discussion of using different fabrics to achieve the gray color for the women’s leotards. The decision was made to layer black mesh over white lycra.

The next decision was to determine the best width for the legs. A mock-up went into rehearsal so Liang could see the garment move. Changes were communicated and we were ready to purchase show fabrics and begin the build.

CHOREOGRAPHER STANTON WELCH’S THE RITE OF SPRING

Stanton created a design book with research pictures and information sketches of members of indigenous tribes charting what each character track would wear.

_MG_7412 copy_Artists of Houston Ballet

Dancers: Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

Stanton presents his ideas, and then I ask questions to clarify.

We shopped fabrics and trims together early in the process because we had an upcoming season brochure photo shoot. I have the shop go straight to fashion fabrics when we have a definitive decision about the costume. We knew we’d use circle skirts and loin cloths – so those go right into production.

I draped all the North and South tribal women’s bras using the discussions with Stanton as my guide. Costume shop supervisor Sara Seavey draped the tribal men’s loin cloths, and incorporated the shop to assist. The tattoo mesh work was done by Monica Guerra using the research and discussion from Stanton.

_MG_6659 copy_Nozomi Iijima and Artists of Houston Ballet

Dancers: Nozomi Iijima and Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

The shop follows direction from both Stanton and me as we construct all the other costumes and details. Amanda Mitchell and crew created all the wigs. All North and South tribal women have wigs, the “religious” have wigs, and everyone has some type of make-up. The tattoos are mostly created by painted mesh costumes.

Stanton Welch’s The Rite of Spring and Edwaard Liang’s Murmuration continue in performance with the company premiere of Mark Morris’s Pacific through Sunday, March 17 at Wortham Theater Center.  www.houstonballet.org.

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Costumes Take Center Stage with Rock, Roll & Tutus

March 5, 2012
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Nozomi Iijima and Jim Nowakowski in Stanton Welch's Divergence. Photo: Amitava Sarkar

Rock, Roll & Tutus is Houston Ballet’s exciting contemporary program. Opening this Thursday, the show promises music from The Rolling Stones, fast-paced choreography and incredible costumes. In particular, the dramatic black tutus in Divergence and the new, kaleidoscopic costumes of Tapestry catch the viewer’s eye.

We went behind the scenes with Wardrobe Manager Laura Lynch to get a glimpse of how the new Tapestry costumes were created and a look at the famous Divergence tutus.

Artistic Director Stanton Welch collaborated with costume designer Holly Hynes on the new costumes for Tapestry. First, Holly provided a sketch of the costumes. Then, the Wardrobe team created a mock-up made of like fabrics to see how it moves.

Costume sketch of Tapestry and mockup photos

For Tapestry, the men’s costumes are very simple. Mesh pants with a belt are all that they will wear. Lynch commented that the belt was the hardest part to create since all of the decoration had to be stretch.

Closeup of belt detailing

Men's Tapestry costumes

The ladies will wear long, colorful skirts with flesh panels inserted to give a flash of leg and a bodice with painted stripes. Originally, the skirt was a solid color, but during the mockup the Wardrobe team substituted flesh panels and Stanton Welch liked it so much they changed the design. A matching headscarf completes the look.

Work-in-progress costume from Tapestry

The black tutus from Divergence are iconic, but what casual audience members may not know is that there can be as many as 16 costume changes for a dancer. The change may be as dramatic as the dancer switching from a tutu to pants to simply taking off their headpiece.

Those headpieces are made from shellac and a made to look like hair sculptures. The secret to gettingthem to stay on the dancer’s head? Not so secret, really. “We use lots of pinning,” Lynch confirms.

The tutus most closely resemble an Elizabethan collar. They are made from nylon plastic screening and are pleated by hand before being sewn. Nylon plastic screening is so tough that costume shop workers could only cut the material with a hot knife. They also faced multiple cuts from the rough edges of the material.  A silk edge was sewn onto every tutu to protect the skin from being torn. Another challenge they faced was that the material only came in white so the Wardrobe Department hired an auto paint shop to spray them black!

Silk edge of Divergence tutu

Traditional tutus can be carried in a soft, round fabric bag that dancers can easily carry. For Divergence, the tutus are too heavy and must be stored in a special box. The box and shelves are made of wood and are organized according to size. They can range from 12-14”. A dancer will be assigned a tutu based on her height so it doesn’t appear to overwhelm her.

Special Divergence tutu box

Audiences will be able to see all these dramatic costumes when Houston Ballet prepares to rock the stage March 8-18!

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Return of the Masters: A Wardrobe Perspective

September 13, 2011

Guest Writer: Laura Lynch, wardrobe manager

Photo by Leonel Nerio of Art Institute of Houston
Photo by Leonel Nerio of Art Institute of Houston North

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.

Costume Shop Supervisor Sara Seavey - Photo by Leonel Nerio of Art Institute of Houston North

Wardrobe Shop Supervisor Sara Seavey - Photo by Leonel Nerio of Art Institute of Houston North

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!

Photo by Mary Stephens of Art Institute of Houston North

Photo by Mary Stephens of Art Institute of Houston North

 

 

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