As Hallowe’en draws near, many children and parents start thinking about costumes. For those who are involved in dance, however, wearing a costume is not a treat limited only to one day per year. Preparing a class for performing in costume can seem a daunting task, so here are some tips for an easy costuming process. .
1. Assess your class. Consider body type, age appropriateness and potential cultural concerns before you make plans for costumes. Every dancer has a story about his or her worst costume experience. For most, it turns out to be a funny memory, but for some it can be very traumatic. .
2. Involve parents. Check with your parent committee to see if anyone has a sewing machine and collaborate on homemade costumes. Not only a creative option, homemade solutions can also be very cost-effective. .
3. Involve your students. Incorporate students’ thoughts and ideas about costumes and themes. It’s a great way to keep them feeling part of the process. .
4. A good tip for choosing fabrics comes from Barbara de Kat, wardrobe coordinator for The National Ballet of Canada: “Remember the fabric is dancing too.” Light and flowing materials will emphasize the dancers’ movements. .
5.Baggy isn’t necessarily better. Tighter-fighting costumes highlight the dancers’ movements more effectively, but clothing shouldn’t inhibit the dancing. Skirts should run at longest to mid-calf and pants should bell just below the ankle, no lower. .
6. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Goodwill, Value Village, the Salvation Army and other thrift stores are great places to search out costumes. When buying used, have your students put the clothing on and try some big movements. The clothing should move with them. Alterations may be required. If you or a parent can’t do them, a tailor will be able to help you for a relatively small fee. If you’re trying to outfit your whole class, pick one element – a colour, a striped shirt or a matching accessory – to unite everyone’s outfit cheaply and easily. .
7. The tickle trunk and home closet are also wallet-friendly costume sources. Store possible costume items throughout the year. When it’s time to start designing, have everyone raid the trunks and closets to see what treasures can be found. .
8.If you choose to purchase pre-made costumes, do your research. Ask around for companies that other dance studios or teachers recommend. Buy locally whenever possible, so check your local yellow pages for costume house listings. .
Most importantly, remember that while costumes are part of the whole performance experience, ultimately the audience is there to watch the dancers, so be sure your class focusses on their steps, not just their outfits.