How the Costumes Get Made at New York City Ballet

At the New York City Ballet's spring gala last night (read about my misadventures here), the renowned company performed two world premieres--one cho
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Leah Chernikoff
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At the New York City Ballet's spring gala last night (read about my misadventures here), the renowned company performed two world premieres--one cho
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At the New York City Ballet's spring gala last night (read about my misadventures here), the renowned company performed two world premieres--one choreographed by the company's director Peter Martins and one choreographed by former principal dancer with the company Benjamin Millepied, whom you know better as Natalie Portman's baby daddy/fiance--as well as the Balanchine classic Symphony in C, which the company last danced in 2008. The night was about beautiful ballet, celebs and socialites gathering to raise a lot of money for the company (which they did--$2 million worth), but there was also a special emphasis on the fashion. The night was sponsored by Dior and Swarovski. Natalie Portman wore Dior to the gala while her buddies Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte designed the costumes for her fiance's ballet. Gilles Mendel designed the beautifully draped costumes for Martins's "Mes Oiseaux" but the show stoppers of the evening were undeniably the glittering Swarovski-laden tutus for Symphony in C. The audience let out an audible gasp when the curtain rose for Symphony in C as they took in the dancers in their sparkling white tutus.

Sure there were over 105,000 Swarovski crystals used for the costumes--but what really made them special is that they were brand new---a rarity for New York City Ballet which tends to stick with the original costumes Karinska designed for the Balanchine ballets, making tweaks and adjustments here and there to fit the dancers. "This is very rare for the shop to build a ballet of this scale," costume director Marc Happel told us. "Usually we will replace a tutu or do six or seven but to do over 40 is kind of unheard of. We've been working on them for over a year."

Why the costume face lift? "Peter [Martins] felt that it was time to re-look at Symphony in C and that perhaps the ballet needed a fresher new look," Happel said. With Swarovski's help and a look he described as "geometric" with "more angles" Happel certainly modernized (and blinged out) the ballet.

Take a look at how it all came together.

Photos: Courtesy Paul Kolnik