Remember my post on dancer-fashion? Well, there is another aspect to what dancers wear, something quite different from studio-statements;

Onstage, the clothes worn by the dancers are known as costumes. They are a tool for the choreographer, the stage director and their crew to create a setting for the ballet, both geographically and historically, to create certain feeling, and, more importantly, add layers of personality to the character that wears them.

Depending on the style of the performance, the costumes may be anything from a middle-age evening gown, to a plain white leotard (which by the way, often are very see-through up close. It is made to reflect the light on stage back at the audience, so they see a white body. We see everything else..). Learning to deal with them is a part of any dancers job. A great dancer shines through the clothes, not because of them. Nevertheless, the right clothes can make the whole difference between success and failure.

Sometimes the costumes makes the whole character…

Now, this is where we dancers don’t have a say on what to wear. This is where we wear what we’re told, and that’s that. NOT. Every time there is a new production, all the dancers have issues with their costumes. It makes me look fat, I can’t turn in this, it’s too short, too long, too tight, too green  – it’s the same tune every time! After the first costume-rehearsal, it is normal that the dancers can make requests or comments on the shape, fit and use of the costume. They may, or may not be heard, but when it comes to the look of it, it’s a lost cause to ask to change anything. The costume-designer made it that way for a reason, and he or she is rarely open to suggestions. Come performance day, you wear what you are given. I heard a designer once tell a typical complaining ballerina: “I make the clothes. That’s my job. Now, make them look good, that’s yours!”

Check out the other posts in the Tools of the trade: Ballet-column for more on the crazy things you encounter in a dancers every-day life.

Until next time, ta-ta