What to Wear When You’re in ‘Hell’


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There has been a lot of buzz about the “Guardians of the Inferno” characters from Francesca di Rimini, and our costumes and makeup. Everyone seems to want to know what we are wearing ‐ or what we aren’t wearing.

Well, I’m here to lay all the speculation to rest!

Our very first rehearsal for the ballet was over the summer. Yuri started by pulling up an image on his cellphone of the sculpture of The Three Shades perched at the top of Rodin’s Gates of Hell. As we began to work on the dance, we started to get very excited about the potential for these costumes.

It wasn’t until the fall, several months after we had started the ballet, that I had my first costume fitting. I met with Yuri and Sandra Woodall in the fitting room and they had me try on a solid green, full body unitard. I was quick to express my disappointment – I had hoped for much less clothing. Sandra then showed me the fabric that the final unitard would be made from, which was a sheer flesh colored fabric. Supposedly, what I was trying on was a mock-up made with scrap material they were using in order to figure out the best cut.

We spent about half an hour discussing the cut of the unitard and then the fun started. Sandra pulled out a piece of chalk and asked me to flex my stomach muscles. Shortly after that I had three people surrounding me, all with chalk in hand and each tracing a different muscle group of my body onto the unitard. After an hour in this first fitting it had been decided that the green scrap fabric would become the actual fabric. Yuri and Sandra both loved the color and I was stoked to have my muscles exaggerated in such a way. I reported back to the other Shades (Jeremy Rucker  and Quinn Wharton) telling them that we would all be getting our muscles traced onto a green unitard.

I had my next fitting in December between shows of Nutcracker. I remember Yuri in full costume and make-up for Drosselmeyer pinning pieces of mesh fabric to me! The first draft of the muscles had been screened onto the unitard. All that needed to be done was some fine tuning of the painted musculature ‐ some darkening here and lightening there. At the end of this fitting they decided to have a black mesh hood of the same material with strands of hair wildly pulled through.

At this point none of the other Shades had had a costume fitting. I thought this was very odd considering how time consuming the chalking and painting of muscles had seemed.

I had another fitting a few weeks later, during which we decided to get rid of the mesh hood. Finally, Richard Battle from our makeup department joined in the conversation to discuss hair and make-up. He and his colleague created a spray gel mixed with a greenish white make up to create the final look for the hair that would give a windswept, sculpture-like look. The make-up was to be a green base to match the unitard with extreme sculpturing of the facial features to match the rest of the body.

The costume was nearly finished and at last the other Shades were getting called into costume fittings. However when they arrived, their costumes had already been painted. I was surprised and flattered to find out my body had become the template for all three Shades’ musculature.

In the end, the final costume and make-up could be done in as little as 15 minutes, leaving five minutes of the intermission for us to warm-up before the curtain.

The classics are wonderful and challenging in their own way, but being involved in a creative process from scratch is truly the bread and butter for an artist. I was so thrilled to be a part of this process with Yuri and all the other dancers and artists that collaborated together to tell this story.


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One Comment

  1. avatar Roger Green
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    This is a truly fascinating and informative blog post, Luke. I was among the many who wondered how in the world your costumes and make-up were created. The three of you gave us an unforgettable performance. Congratulations!

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