Razzle Dazzle, Sparkle

14 Dec

When you see a ballet production (or any kind of stage production for that matter) how many of you think that the costumes play an integral part of the experience? Raise your hands! I am assuming that all of your hands are raised high so from now on I will just assume you are all agreeing with me. So. These costumes. I have always had a fascination with them. I loved to play dress up as a kid and I was probably a little (a lot) more passionate about it than my peers. As soon as my mother showed me how to operate her sewing machine I was hooked.

Fast-forward a few years: out of both necessity and passion I found tutu making. I am originally from Norway so it was way too expensive to ship a tutu all the way up there. Now, if you have ever seen a tutu on a ballerina you know what I am talking about (of course you have – you are reading an ABT blog…) The beautiful pancake or bell shaped skirt, the crystals, the beading and of course the glamour. Or so you think. The truth is, if you look at a tutu up close you will see that it is probably kind of dirty and smelly. Especially if it has been used for a production or two.

Even if you have seen tutus on stage many times, you might be surprised at how complex these costumes actually are; a lesson I learned when experimenting with making them myself. I did not have any formal training to make tutus but I found this out through a few years of trial and error, lots of books and Internet forum searching.

Even though I have a good grasp of making and repairing these costumes, it is always a treat to study costumes made by others up close – there’s always something to learn! Getting to work in the education department, I was able go get my hands on and work on several tutus that belong to the school at ABT. These are mostly old tutus donated by the company (from the 70s and 80s at least if I am not mistaken) and they have been worn a lot (and they are usually labeled with the ballerinas names inside, #fangirlmoments). These poor old tutus needed a lot of love so I spent a good chunk of my time repairing and reinforcing parts of these tutus so they can have a few more years in the spotlight without falling apart.


A few weeks into my internship the school was lucky enough to get a new donation of tutus from the company. These tutus were used for a previous production of Sleeping Beauty which I actually saw being performed back in the summer of 2011 when I was visiting NYC. I remembered drooling over these ethereal and gorgeous costumes from the audience and now here I was – actually getting to touch these costumes. It’s a costume nerds dream! Especially the tutu for Aurora – the colors that are used for the layers of tulle, the fabrics, the decorations… It is absolutely gorgeous. And you can imagine my inner fan girl getting a little star struck when the label inside reads “Murphy”. Gillian Murphy wore this tutu and now I have it in my hands. Yes, I know that sounds weird. But it is pretty cool, right?

Sunny Bjaanes

JKO Costume Intern

Fall 2018

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