The production of Snow White is just over two weeks away and while the dancers rehearse and parents hustle to buy tickets, behind the scenes the costume designer, Deborah Shumway, is putting final touches on costumes she has been working on since September.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Debbie and learning about what goes into ensuring that each dancer has a costume that not only conveys their role, but feels good and allows them to be confident and comfortable on stage.
Debbie was a dance teacher for 40 years and has been sewing her whole life. One of her first jobs was as an alterationist at a dry cleaners. These two passions give her not only the skills she needs to ensure fit and functionality, but the knowledge as a former dancer to recognize what will work on stage and what won’t.
For Snow White Debbie kept costs down by using costumes that had previously been used in other productions. This meant that she had to take apart and redo many of them to fit dancers of vastly different sizes.
One of the most challenging sets of costumes were the Dragonfly costumes. These beautiful winged dresses had previously been used on dancers that were significantly taller than the young dancers that will wear them in Snow White. Debbie wanted to ensure that the costumes could be returned to their current size in the future so instead of cutting them she carefully pleated the sleeves and bodices. The result is a custom fitted costume that can be worn again with just a few alterations.
There are many considerations when making costumes for dance as opposed to theater. Dancers must be able to move, bend, leap and twirl and their costumes must be able to stay on, and allow for movement.
Additionally, some dancers have multiple parts or different costumes for the same part and at times must change their costumes in the wings very quickly. A good costumer must be aware of this and must ensure that the costumes can be quickly, and easily, taken off and changed, sometimes in the dark. This means sometimes fitting one costume piece under another or having helpers back stage to assist with fastening dresses and bodices.
The costumer’s work continues through the show, ensuring that the costumes arrive at the venue, fixing last minute problems, and then washing, repairing and rehanging costumes for future use.
Debbie loves working with the dancers, seeing them dance confidently in costumes she has made and watching their progress from year to year. For her this is a true labor of love and Amherst Ballet is lucky to have her!
By Lisa Gallant, parent
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am writing you all to express my deepest gratitude to two members of our community who are long overdue for an acknowledgment of their ongoing commitment to our school. It gives me great pleasure to officially announce two awards for Outstanding Service to Amherst Ballet, for the years of 2016 - 2017.
Beth Eagleson is the parent of a dancer, has served on the Board of Directors including a term as Vice President, and is now the leading voice of the new Amherst Ballet Family Association. She has volunteered at countless events, and brings positive energy and good cheer to the school every time she walks in the door. Her belief in the success of the school is one of the things that inspired myself and our Business Director, Josh Pearson, to accept our current positions.
Nicola Metcalf is also the parent of a dancer, and has served multiple terms on the Board of Directors. She is now also involved in the Family Association, and continues to volunteer her time and offer assistance to the general running of the organization. Nicola has been a member of the Amherst Ballet community for a very long time. Her unwavering commitment to the school has been the cause of many positive changes, and her presence has been felt in the studio itself when she attends class as an adult dancer, at performances, and in the administration of our programs.
There are many things at Amherst Ballet that would never have happened if it were not for the generosity and good will of Beth and Nicola. We are honored by their service and our gratitude to both of them is limitless. Please join us in thanking them for their exceptional contributions!
In honor of these awards, Beth and Nicola's names are being engraved on plaques, that will join the others hanging up at the school outside the studios.
Thank you Beth and Nicola, on behalf of myself and Josh, and from the whole school community. I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!
“Dwarves, I’m sorry… we’re going to run scene five, and then you can eat!”
“You’re going to run here and there and here…. And bow.”
“Where’s the chocolate?”
“On Amy’s desk.”
“He’s probably already married.”
“1 and 2 and 3… then, whew!”
“Flowers, go back to where you turn, please.”
“Okay! Good! Does everyone understand?”
“I have a question…”
“Do we have to leave? I want to stay.”
Whispers. The impossibility of homework. The squeak of shoes on the dance floor. Giggles. Shhhh….
And, of course, Beethoven.
Yep, it’s the first full-cast rehearsal of Snow White.