The love for ballet usually starts early. Children either love the rhythms of dance class or they fall under the spell of a performance, where the costumes are as enticing as the dancers.
Onstage, dancers appear magical: ballerinas in costumes that make them look as if they could float as they glide about on their toes, men who stay suspended as they leap into the air. Everyone seems to defy gravity.
Those children who fall in love with ballet yearn to someday wear the costumes that look as if they came from fairy tales.
David Heuvel, costume designer for Ballet West, the dance company featured on The CW’s Monday series “Breaking Pointe,” has been designing such costumes for years.
The costume “can be whatever you need it to be as long it moves and breathes with the body,” he tells Zap2it.
“I believe if a dancer is comfortable and loves the costume and appreciates the costume, that is 95 percent of the battle,” he says. “They only have to concentrate on their steps when they get out on the stage.”
Here, the Sugar Plum Fairy from “The Nutcracker” is in the classic ballet pose, an arabesque. She wears a Heuvel design trimmed with gold Mylar, lace and Swarovski crystals.
This scene from “Cinderella” features designs by the late, great David Walker, who was an expert in Victorian costumes. The men are wearing period jackets “that are a little lighter than the real period,” Heuvel says.
Walker, who created the patterns used by ballet costume designers around the world, used a palette of rich shades of burgundies, pinks and crimsons. Here, the ballerinas’ longer skirts are made of metallic brocade and an iridescent French nylon that “changes color when you look at it,” Heuvel says, adding that the material was much easier to get in the disco-driven 1970s and ’80s.
For the title role in “Cinderella,” Heuvel put the ballerina in grays, “and the skirt is raggedy, more like a cheesecloth,” he says. “It is loosely woven and shredded.” He wanted the costume to reflect the ashes from the fireplace.
Esmeralda from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” wears an emerald tutu trimmed with pressed coins. Heuvel wanted people to “know she was a Gypsy.” He also used a bustier and lace, and the trim on the skirt resembles a shawl with more coins.
“There is a mystique to ballet,” Heuvel says, “especially the tutu. There is a mystique of how it is manufactured and looks on the body and what it does. When I was taught to make tutus, the woman who taught me was the only one in the organization allowed to make tutus. It is a secret kind of thing, and it tends to be wherever you go. It is (the costume designers’) secret, their trademark. It is all part of the mystique.”