What makes a “good” costume? Three points of view

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For many of us, a costume completes the transition from the rehearsal process to a stage-ready performance. But the components of what makes a “good” costume can vary widely. dance review spoke to a ballet dancer, wardrobe supervisor and dance critic to find out what they think makes a successful costume.

Jon Taylor, wardrobe supervisor for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

“A good costume incorporates three major elements: the concept, the right fabric and a conversation with the dancer. A costume should always be rooted in the concept of the piece. As far as the fabric is concerned, the dancer must be able to move, while being strong enough to withstand the strain that the dance will place on them. I generally lean towards cotton micro-blend fabric – which is great for men’s pants and can be dyed for a variety of colors – as well as fabrics like rayon and crepe. And, finally, a good costume needs a conversation with the dancer. I always say that if the dancer likes the costume, he only has to worry about dancing.

Courtney Lavine, corps de ballet dancer at the American Ballet Theater

“For me, it’s all about the fit. As long as I am able to bend, move and breathe, I am extremely happy. I don’t like feeling super covered, like I can’t show my lines. Being overwhelmed by the fabric can sometimes prevent me from moving and feel like an obstacle. We work so hard in the studio as dancers, trying to perfect everything. Once we put the costume on, it should elevate us and ultimately help the character come to life.

Siobhan Burke, writer and dance critic

“Great costumes make a statement. As someone who sees a lot of dance and new work, I love when costumes spark a conversation with a choreographer’s body of work. It’s always refreshing to see something unexpected. A good costume also brings out certain elements of the room. It complements aspects of the environment and sets a special mood. You can always tell when a costume designer understands the dancers and their bodies. dancer should never fight against the costume.It should make them feel more free, and when you can see that from the audience, it changes the experience immediately.


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