From Page to Stage
Every ballet begins with a strong story and a concept where the choreography, music and designs tie together. The designer’s role is to make this concept visual through sets and costumes sketches, so there is a strong, cohesive visual message.
The wardrobe department then creates a costume folio with material samples as the reference to show how everything should look.
The process of designing and making any ballet costume is long, detailed and involved. Wardrobe staff source fabrics and dye costumes, and make samples for the dancers to try on. These are adjusted to suit movement, trimmed and often detailed with thousands of beads, embroidery or sequins. Ballet costumes are as beautiful close up as they are from afar and are a significant part of the magical spectacle of the ballet.
Some Ballet Facts
Did you know many costumes are only dry-cleaned at the end of a production run?
To be cleaned they must be dry. The wardrobe has a hot room to help with this. Between shows the costumes have to be hand-cleaned with Shellite (a dry-cleaning fluid) and sprayed with sphagnum (to deodarise and prevent mould). It is part of the touring crew’s job to ensure the costumes are in proper condition so that the dancers can wear them with comfort and in good repair.
Did you also know that the ballet has a full-time shoe fitter to ensure that pointe and flat shoes are ordered, maintained, and fitted to each dancer’s specifications?
The Australian Ballet orders 7,500 shoes each year; 5,000 are pointe shoes and 2,500 are ballet flats. There is a constant stream of pointes and flats coming in and out of the Shoe Room weekly. The shoe fitter's job is to make sure a dancer’s pigeon-hole is never empty! Without shoes, a dancer cannot do their job. Nearly all of the shoes are custom made, and have the dancer’s last names stamped on the outer soles.
The lifespan of a pointe shoe is quite short when they are used by a professional dancer. Some ballerinas go through one or two pairs of pointe shoes per performance!