Friday, April 30, 2010

The Costume Shop: Stitching the Show Together

American Legends's first weekend was a success! I attended the matinee performance this past Sunday. Can you say amazing?! Not only was the choreography unique to each musical artist being paid tribute, but the costumes for each section were distinctly unique as well.

Costume Shop Manager Rebecca Turk and her staff are responsible for producing the extraordinary costumes seen on stage. Rebecca collaborated with Maurice Hines and Darrell Grand Moultrie in designing the costumes for Wonderful! and Simply Sammy. Jim Searle designed the costumes for The Man in Black.

Rebecca was kind enough to take a break from sewing to share with us what the costume shop and its staff do to prepare for the show.

Time + Fabric + Sweat = . . .

The costume shop has four full-time employees: a manager, an assistant manager, a lead technician, and a lead apprentice. Also working in the shop is an intern who, along with two staffers, is backstage during the run of every show.

The shop put in over 1640 hours of labor to get ready for American Legends. That is over 68 days spent sewing and designing!

How do these costumers stay motivated to get the work done? "We listen to mostly fast-paced music in the shop to keep us moving," says Rebecca. They had to be moving because over 140 pieces were needed for the show, 90% of which were made from scratch!

Not only were tutus sewn and suit tails pressed, but different shoes had to be purchased to outfit the dancers for each number. Eight pairs of cowboy boots were purchased for The Man in Black and over 20 pairs of ballroom shoes were bought for Simply Sammy.

What would a BalletMet costume be without some spandex? It would probably be a very bad idea, that's what! That is why over 50 yards of spandex were used in creating the costumes for the show.

Thank goodness for the costumers! Without them and their hard work, the show would not look the same!

Don't worry if you didn't get a chance to see American Legends last weekend because there are still two more shows (4/30 and 5/1)! Buy your tickets ASAP because they are going fast!

Friday, April 23, 2010


Not only is Stevie Wonder's 60th birthday quickly approaching, but tonight is OPENING NIGHT for BalletMet's production of American Legends!

What better way to celebrate the musical icon's birthday than through acclaimed choreographer, Maurice Hines's interpretation of some of Stevie's most well-known songs in American Legends.

In honor of opening night, I have found some fun facts about not only the birthday boy, but about Johnny Cash and Sammy Davis, Jr. as well, who are also being paid tribute in the show.

  • Johnny Cash performed at the Ohio State Fair in 1981.

  • Both Johnny Cash and Sammy Davis, Jr. had variety shows on TV, The Johnny Cash Show and The Sammy Davis, Jr. Show.

  • Stevie Wonder was a guest on The Johnny Cash Show in 1970 on the same day that Sammy Davis, Jr. married his third wife, Altovise Gore.

  • All three artists have received Kennedy Center honors: Sammy (1987), Johnny (1996), and Stevie (1999).

  • Stevie Wonder has been honored with 22 Grammy awards.

  • Johnny Cash has received 13 Grammy awards.

  • Sammy Davis, Jr. received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Reward in 2001.

Now you can "wow" your friends with your knowledge of the artists tonight while waiting for the curtain to go up for American Legends!

Eat a piece of cake for Stevie and I'll see you at the show!

Friday, April 9, 2010

And then they nursed it, rehearsed it and gave out the news...

...that the southland gave birth to the blues!

Today I had the exciting experience of sitting in on today’s open rehearsal with renowned choreographer Darrell Grand Moultrie, one of three choreographers for American Legends. Darrell choreographed a piece that pays tribute to the work of singer, tap dancer, actor, and musician Sammy Davis, Jr.

An energetic crowd of more than 90 people attended the free rehearsal in the BalletMet performance space. The audience clapped along and gave the dancers several standing ovations through out the hour.

During the rehearsal, Darrell filled in for the tap dancer, who will be Marshall L. Davis Jr.

Love Me or Leave Me, a duet performed by Adrienne Benz and the hoofer (tapper), was performed at the rehearsal. The piece is full of vitality and everything fun. Adrienne and Darrell danced with an adorable chemistry.

I was surprised when watching Adrienne because she moved with such ease through the jazz jumps, leaps, and turns. I wouldn’t know from watching just this that she was a ballet dancer; she looked like she belonged on Broadway. Darrell announced later that she learned the piece in just one hour and that when she danced it for the first time with Marshall that it looked like they had known each other for years.

Another piece rehearsed was Birth of the Blues, which has several couples dancing together. It has amazing lifts and switching up of partners. The best way of describing this piece is that it’s gooey and hot like a chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven. (I’m not just saying that because I’m on a diet!) It ends with the men spinning the women like tops on their backs on the floor. I really want to learn how to do that!

Darrell took several questions from the lively audience through out the rehearsal. Many were wondering about his choreography process.

“For me, it’s the music.” Darrell said. “I listen to music over and over again and try to visualize something. I wonder how I can keep it interesting. I try to make each dance its own world.”

Darrell explained how when he gives dancers solos he has them take the music home and listen to it on repeat so they can learn to know it like the back of their hands. When he choreographs, he knows every ping, hum, and tick in his music.

One question from an audience member was, “Who chose that the women dance in those heels?” Someone else from the audience yelled out, “a man!”

Darrell said that the costumes were too fabulous to be worn with flats.

“It’s so hard, but these girls treat them like they’re sneakers,” Darrell said.