Monday, October 25, 2010

Welcome to the BalletMet Costume Studio!

We create about 85% of the costumes you see in BalletMet’s shows, and our stock contains over 6,000 hand crafted pieces. We have four full time employees that work in the studio each season, as well as a handful of professional seamstresses and tailors that come work for us on individual projects as we have need. The making and maintaining of costumes for a professional company is a side of dance that is not seen often, but it is our world, and we love it!

Currently in our shop are the following lovely ladies, from left to right:

Erin, Assistant Shop Manager and Wardrobe Manager, who has worked with the company six years and does a little bit of everything, including writing this blog!

Kate, Costume Apprentice, coming to us after earning a degree at University of Michigan (no egg-ing of cars please!) to spend a year learning about costuming dance.

Rebecca, Costumes Director, who has designed and worked all over the country, including St. Louis, Florida, Oregon, and New York.

Leigh, a free-lance stitcher who frequently works with us and other companies around town, as well as backstage on many Broadway tours.

Linda, draper and stitcher extraordinaire, who is celebrating her 25th year of making tutus for BalletMet and has singlehandedly produced about a third of our stock!

At any given time, we’re working on at least three shows at once, but currently the show that is closest to production is Dangerous Liaisons.

We still have the costumes from the original production in 1996, and our plan was to pull those costumes out of stock and refresh them for the new production. Sounds fairly easy, right? Well.... it just so happens that our current company is--on average-- about four inches taller than the company that was dancing here when this show was first performed! Thankfully, many of the pieces only needed minor alterations to be usable, but in other cases some major work had to be done. Here are two transformations we’re especially proud of...

Beautiful, isn’t it? This is the dress worn by the character of Mme de Rosemonde, aunt to Valmonte. This year, the character will be played by the fabulous Courtney Muscroft. What was less fabulous was the gap-osis she was suffering the first time she put the dress on! She had at least an inch of space between the bottom of the bodice and the waistband of the skirt, and the hem was a good 4-6 inches shorter than it needed to be. The bodice could be let out, but there was no altering that skirt...It was clear we needed to make an extension. And the best way to create an extension is to make it look like you did it on purpose.

So first, we pulled out the leftover show fabric and cut an extension, then made some piping to help the extension look more like a feature.

By some miracle, the original lace used for the dress was still hanging out in our lace box, so we added a few more rows to the center inset.

The real challenge was that gold trim. We didn’t have anything remotely like it. But we found three other trims that resembled certain aspects of the original...

And we combined them to make an almost identical replica!

Here’s the final piece with its extension. Would you have guessed that wasn’t a design choice?? We love the oohs and aahs this piece is getting as it stands by the door of the studio for passers by to see.

Our second major victory was the dress for Mme de Volanges, played by Zoica Tovar and Olivia Clark. Now, Zoica and Olivia are unable to share a dress due to their difference in height. So we altered the original dress to fit Zoica and then began drafting an entirely new one for Olivia. But unlike the Rosemonde dress, there were no leftover materials to work with. In fact, not a single fabric or trim used on the original dress remained. We had to replicate the dress totally from scratch.

Can you see the differences? The brown taffeta looks the same, but it’s actually half the weight. Olivia couldn’t believe how light the finished dress was. We mimicked the bright orange of the organza in the skirt by layering a deeper rust with a bright yellow. Rebecca was lucky enough to find an almost identical black dotted tulle at JoAnns. Thank you, Halloween season! And the silver trim is covered with black mesh to dull it’s luminosity.

Between Leigh, Kate and I it took about a week to get this dress ready for fitting, and another few days to finish it. But it was worth every moment. (Well, Kate might not agree. She had to sew the 26 closures.)

So the height challenge has been an interesting one, but we’re satisfied with the result. Before we sign off, we wanted to share a few more of our favorite pieces from this show...

This is Marquis de Merteuil, which you might recognize from our brochure. Linda and Kate both love this dress, for it’s color and the effectiveness of the decoration. The trims are light and simple, but give a feeling of sumptuous wealth. Linda remembers making this dress back in ’96, and loves it still.

Here’s Rebecca’s favorite. We had to replace one men’s coat due to the height issue, and this new one was a beaut! Note the rust lining.

Sometimes it’s the little things that are the most satisfying. I thoroughly enjoyed the delicate detail work required to execute these little neck scarves, called fichus. They are for the maids, and each one is tacked so that the individual folds stay exactly in place every time they’re worn.

Leigh helped create the original Dangerous Liaisons as well as Linda, and she remembers this dress well. She made those rosettes by hand. Yup, that’s right. No store bought flowers, if you please!

Well, thanks for stopping by and coming on a tour of our little world. We’ll share more later if you’re interested. But until then, come see our beautiful costumes and talented dancers at Dangerous Liaisons next week. Merde!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Good morning readers! It’s been a little while since my last post. I can assure you that as always, things are still busy and exciting here at BalletMet.

As many of you know, BalletMet is home to both a professional company and dance academy which we are very proud of, but, among all of the wonderful things here at BalletMet, we have something else we are extremely proud to share, and that is our Education and Outreach Programs.

Some of you may not be aware of BalletMet’s Education and Outreach Programs and their commitment to community involvement and student development. You should know that here at BalletMet, our Education Department’s mission is “to provide quality dance experiences that are informative, inspirational and accessible so that the entire community may appreciate and enjoy the art of dance.” This means that the Education Department wants to provide dance experiences for everyone. BalletMet also maintains a strong commitment to maintaining arts education in schools. Through its DanceReach programs, BalletMet strives to make dance education available for all students. Programming is constantly refined to increase educational impact and is designed to help students express themselves through movement, through their spoken words and through their writing. Programs such as Moving into Literacy and Morning at the Ballet focus on these goals. BalletMet also wants to ensure that every child has the opportunity to experience the ballet. Through its KidTix program, underserved children and special needs individuals are given the opportunity to attend a BalletMet performance. For many of these students, this performance is a first-time experience with the performing arts. I know I remember just how special my first performing arts experience was. Can you? If you can, maybe you remember how special you felt sitting in such a big, beautiful theatre. Maybe you remember how excited you were to see just what was behind that big red curtain or maybe you remember how you couldn’t stop talking about the performance after it was over. Maybe you wished you could see it again and again. No matter what we may remember, first experiences such as the ones BalletMet’s Education Department can provide are special, unique, and available for adults and children throughout the state. Though BalletMet is able to bring students to the ballet, the Education and Outreach Programs often go beyond the theatre and go directly into the classroom.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to speak with BalletMet’s Director of Education, Ambre Emory-Maier. Ambre has accomplished a lot during her time here. She has developed BalletMet programs such as Aladdin: Finding the Magic in Dance and Moving into Literacy and oversees the Dance Academy’s Scholarship Program. Ambre also has a dance background herself. Though she is a very busy lady, she was kind enough to answer some questions I had for her. I hope you enjoy reading some of the things she had to say. I know I enjoyed speaking with her.

How has your dance background helped you develop programs for BalletMet?

My dance training and the educational experiences I had growing up certainly had significant influences on me. My background has helped shape who I am, but no one person did that. You are who you are. Every experience you have and every person you come in contact with helps you grow and learn.

Ambre then went on to tell me that many of the BalletMet staff had dance backgrounds. How wonderful that people who grew up with dance are able to work around something they love so much.

Do you have any personal highlights or any particular stories that have stuck with you? Maybe about a particular child or group or class who seemed particularly moved or benefited by/from a program?

All kids benefit from the program, though it’s easier to see the impacts of experiential programming. At Morning at the Ballet, all the kids were talking to each other before the show started, and one of the kids was looking ahead to the stage and he said “is that a big screen”? It just goes to show the level of awe and wonder. For many of these kids, this is their first time experiencing the performing arts, and for many, it may be their only experience with them. With these programs, we are working on dispelling the stereotypes-the negative stereotypes. People may say “I don’t look like a dancer or move like a dancer or know anything about dance” but we want to show people that anyone CAN MOVE-and that has value.

I really like the ideas and goals behind Morning at the Ballet and Moving into Literacy. How are the programs designed to help students communicate through writing? Why do you think it’s so effective? Can you explain a little more about how these programs work?

We work to ensure that our programs are aligned with state standards and we attempt to cater to a school’s needs, such as programming to improve reading and writing. Our Moving into Literacy program is typically geared toward 2nd graders, but can be adapted. The programs can also be adapted to different school district’s learning curriculums. For example, in Westerville, they incorporated their lessons on Asian culture and wrote haiku poems. Other schools have focused on developing “how-to” writing. Another school did the program around fairy tales, and the children wrote their own fairy tales. Dance is just another language you can use to express yourself and communicate.

Aladdin, Finding the Magic in Dance is different. It’s designed as a curriculum unit-a 6 lesson unit and follows the creative process of BalletMet’s Artistic Director, Gerard Charles, from conception to the premiere of Aladdin. The program was funded by the Ohio Arts Council. It incorporates lessons in subjects such as math, drama and science. Teachers who participate in this program receive proper training in the elements of dance and in the curriculum itself. More than 90 teachers have participated in the program.

What are you most proud of? Is there a program you feel has worked really well or is there something about working for BalletMet that makes you particularly proud?

I’m proud of all of our programs; it’s hard to choose a favorite or something I am particularly proud of. I am really proud of our staff and I am proud of our mission. I am proud of what we do.

After speaking with Ambre, I know I am even more proud to be a part of BalletMet. For more information about BalletMet’s Education and Outreach Programs, please go to:

Do you have any special memories from arts experiences you had at school? Has BalletMet’s Educational Programming made an impact on you? Please post and share!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Happy Friday! We are proud to announce that Requiem!!, our season opener, has run with great success and winning reviews. Only two performances left! Though the Capitol Theatre fills with the familiar sounds of Mozart, Requiem!! is anything but familiar, and certainly not one may consider traditional or safe. On the contrary, Requiem!! is exciting and thrilling its audiences. In honor of Requiem!!, I am dedicating this post to fun facts and press highlights.

Fact number 1: Some of you may not know that BalletMet was the first North American Ballet Company to perform Requiem!!, German choreographer Birgit Scherzer’s signature piece. Pretty impressive if you ask me!

Fact number 2: The characters M and Death are the only two characters seen throughout the entire work. They appear both literally and metaphorically. Death is always present, at times close and at other times far away.

Fact number 3: M is based on different accounts of Mozart’s life. As Birgit Scherzer did research for the piece, she found it very difficult to combine Mozart’s many characteristics and attributes into once dancer. Because of this, she created M1, M2 and M3. Though M is for Mozart, M also represents the German word for human - mensch," According to Birgit Scherzer, "It can be any of us."

Fact number 4: The suitcase seen in part 2 of the 3 part show is highly symbolic. It symbolizes being on a journey and not being at home. It also is a symbol of Mozart’s constant movement from one place to another. Other symbols include the black umbrellas, which come from the fact that it was snowing when Mozart died and so people were seen with umbrellas. (Snow also denotes winter when nature is dead). Umbrellas can also be viewed in a more generally sheltering or reassuring way.

Fact number 5: What’s up with those 2 exclamation points? In a recent interview, Artistic Director Gerald Charles said “they signify that it is more than just a dance to Mozart's music of that name. It is a dance piece in its own right with its own purpose and artistry."

The show is certainly unique, and audience members and reviewers have submitted rave reviews and provided very positive feedback.

Here are just a couple of press highlights for you to read. If you haven’t seen the show yet, maybe these reviews will inspire you to go this weekend!

“No one could accuse BalletMet Columbus of going easy on its audience in the company's season-opening program: Requiem!! by German choreographer Birgit Scherzer…it's stunning theatricality packs a punch to the solar plexus. No waltzing flowers here. This 90-minute thriller…in every way matches the depth of feeling and poignancy of its music, Mozart's Requiem.”
Barbara Zuck, The Columbus Dispatch

“…I realized this show wasn’t Swan Lake or The Nutcracker. Requiem!! isn’t a nice little Romance where Prince Charming falls in love with Princess Peach in toe shoes. This was horror at the ballet. Ok, maybe “horror,” isn’t a genre that translates adequately. I’m sure, as a dance, this more likely would fall under the category of “psychological thriller.” Regardless, my point is that if you’re not the typical Ballet-goer, this might be exactly the production to whet your appetite for dance. Oh, and it’s October – the perfect time to go see something a little darker than normal.”

John Theiss, CityScene Magazine

For more articles about Requiem!! and to read the full reviews, please follow the links below. Enjoy your weekends, and don’t miss your chance to see this spectacular show tonight or tomorrow.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Greetings! It’s been awhile since our last post and a lot has happened since summer has ended and fall has begun. One particular new thing is that BalletMet has a new Marketing Intern (me), and I am going to use this post to introduce myself, give you an intern’s perspective of BalletMet and tell you about my first day on the job.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Abby and I am currently a senior at Ohio State majoring in art history and minoring in business. I have interned in museums, galleries and arts councils in and out of state and recently finished an internship at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City where I served as a Development and Special Events Intern. As I began making preparations to graduate this December (scary, but very exciting), I decided I wanted to further expand my knowledge and broaden my work experience with one more internship. Though I study the visual arts, I grew up performing with my city’s children’s choir and high school choruses. Before I found my niche with singing, like many little girls, my dream was to be a ballerina. I begged my mother to enroll me in ballet and gymnastics classes at our local YMCA. However, it didn’t take too long for me to realize that I was not the best at ballet. I wasn’t the best at gymnastics either, I recently read one of my weekly gymnastics performance reports and saw that my teacher had written that I “had difficulty with skipping” and that my somersault “needed work”. I quit ballet. I kept the cute pink tutu.

Though I wasn’t the best at ballet, I still loved to watch my local company perform. My mother and I went to our local theatre’s family series and to our local art museum on Sundays. She took me to The Nutcracker when I was 8 and I fell completely in love. My mother loves to tell people that when the curtain fell, I stood up on my seat, clapped as loud and furiously as I could, and shouted “bravo!" just like I remembered seeing on Sesame Street, over and over again. Just as my mother loves to tell that story; one of my favorite stories to tell is that the first exhibition I ever saw in an art museum was Edgar Degas. After loving the Nutcracker, my mother thought I would like to see his ballerina sketches and Little Dancer sculptures. I did. I love that my appreciation for ballet and for Degas has somehow led me to BalletMet.

A long time supporter of the performing arts, I thought working for a world class performing arts organization such as BalletMet would provide me with insight into how a professional company is managed. When I was offered an internship position here in marketing, I knew an opportunity to learn another facet of the arts industry to which I have not yet been exposed was simply one I could not pass up.

I am in the middle of my first week here and I am in love with it already. My friends would all tell you that I called them after my orientation day gushing about the projects I will be working on this quarter. I am especially excited to have been given opportunities to write, help coordinate a Nutcracker volunteer orientation, and help with The Nutcracker Ball. I got a taste of working in special events this summer and can’t wait to get back into it with this particular fundraiser.

I am also particularly excited to work with the marketing team and learn new skills there. I am already noticing major differences between working for a visual arts organization. For example, in a museum, you put on a few big exhibitions a year. These exhibitions tend to run for a few months, giving museum staff much more time to plan, have events and market the art currently hanging on your walls. In a performing arts institution such as BalletMet, you have many more shows that each only run for a week or two. Because of this, working in the performing arts can put an employee or performer in a very fast-paced environment. It’s fast and sometimes extremely stressful, but also exciting, rewarding and very fun.

You may be curious about my first day at work. So I’ll now begin by telling you about how I got lost on the way, spilled juice all over my shirt, and spent my day making hundreds of copies and got coffee for everyone. Just kidding, none of those things happened. While a first day can give anyone jitters and all interns fear spending their days simply making copies and fetching coffee, my first day was great.

Everyone here was very welcoming and positive when I first met them; further indicating that BalletMet is a great place to work. First, my supervisor, Communications Manager Jennifer Sciantarelli, gave me the grand tour of the place. I didn’t realize the school and employees’ offices were all in the same building. I played it cool, but I was so excited to see dancers rehearsing! Jennifer showed me some of the studio spaces and where the costumes are made. I can't even begin to tell you how exciting it is to see little things like this. I love seeing how everything works behind the scenes. In the past, when I’ve done museum work, I always loved going to the storage facilities to see where the art is kept, or seeing the crates of art being prepared to be hung. It always made me excited to be a part of something so big and so rewarding to so many people.

Of course a first day of work never goes 100% smoothly. We had issues finding a computer for me to work on (something that is not new to me at all). However, once we got that under control, I began my first project, which is to write an article for Outlook Magazine. This is so much more than a typical internship;I have a feeling I’ll be doing a lot more than making copies and fetching coffee! On my way out, I saw some young children preparing for their ballet class. It reminded me of when I was little and made me so happy to see. Though it very different than running into curators, art handlers and people listening to audio guide headsets, I have a feeling I’m going to love seeing ballet slippers, hair pulled back into neat ballet buns and love hearing Mozart, Vivaldi and Tchaikovsky every day.

Today, we found a free cubicle in the office and I have happily been typing and working away since this morning. I’ll end here by saying that I am very thrilled to be a part of BalletMet this quarter. If any of you are in the office, stop by the building or see me around please say hi or introduce yourself. I’ll be the one with the red hair and high heels (I'm always in heels).

I’d love to get to know as many of you as I can! Until next time…