There are so many elements about The Nutcracker that simply take peoples breaths away. All sit marveled by the dancing, some swoon over the set and then there are many who, like myself, gawk at the elegant and magnificent display of costumes. With a new one making its way on stage every couple of minutes throughout the show, each with such beautiful detail, I began to wonder… how do you undertake costuming a production like The Nutcracker?
Since beginning my internship here at Ballet Austin in August, I had yet to visit the wardrobe shop. And wanting to inundate myself with all things costumes, I decided to go straight to the sources: Ballet Austin’s Wardrobe Master Alexey Korygin and his assistant Emily Cavasar. As I made my way to the costume world, I half expected to stumble upon a room covered in fabric and thread, hear sewing machines flying and see two people stitching on sequins at a mile a minute. What I discovered was an unbelievably neat work space complete with two of the nicest and most welcoming individuals!
What I learned from this talented two-some was quite interesting. With a total of 176 company-owned costumes, the biggest challenge deals with maintenance and cleaning. Now, the end-of-production dry cleaning is relatively simple: send all 176 costumes off, they return a week later and are tucked safely away until the following season. The difficulty is keeping the intricate costumes clean between performances, especially the stark-white Snow Queen and King outfits, and removing stage make-up takes a lot more than a Tide To-Go Pen.
Of course I had to ask, how many brand new costumes make their debut each season? The answer: one, maybe two… seriously? Alexey explained that new ones are made only when the present ones wear completely out, and with the current set about to celebrate its 15th Nutcracker with Ballet Austin, these costumes are obviously build to last and have an ability to stay beautiful!
Alexey and Emily went on to describe where the real work lies – refurbishing, rebuilding, and fixing all 176 costumes. It’s a meticulous process that begins over the summer; the team spends five to six weeks figuring out how much maintenance each costume will require and the actual fixing begins then as well. About a month and a half before the December opening night, alterations and individual fittings commence and those keep the staff plenty busy!
After gaining this unique insight into the world of Nutcracker costumes, I can hardly wait to watch as they grace the stage with their presence and stun audiences with their beauty.