Close up of the Costumes

Take a closer look

Welcome to the wondrous world of the costume atelier, where the best tailors transform design sketches into the most gorgeous costumes, all the while ensuring NDT- dancers can move perfectly.

The costumes in Celebrating an evening with Jiří Kylián!

The NDT-1 programme Celebrating an evening with Jiří Kylián! pays homage to this inspired choreographer with three influential creations: Tar and Feathers (2006), Gods and Dogs (2008), and Bella Figura (1995).  The three ballets were originally choreographed for Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) by Jiří Kylián. Also, the costumes were especially designed at NDT by Joke Visser, who at the time was head of NDT’s costume atelier. For these pieces Joke created dance costumes made of bubble wrap, costumes consisting of more than a 1000 small stones on frills. The costumes appear simple but are aesthetically magnificent.  

Normally, these costumes are only visible from a distance when they are on the stage. Now we are zooming in on the smallest detail and are bringing the costumes into focus. This way you can really see the craft of the master tailors. 

Tar and Feathers

From costumes on stage

For Tar and Feathers (2006) , the inspiration was the medieval penal ritual in which someone was doused in black tar and covered with feathers. For Kylián, the black, sticky tar, bound by gravity, countered by the delicate feathers associated with lightness and loftiness, is a metaphor for the “unbearable lightness” and “unbearable weight” of our human existence.

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Dancing in bubble wrap? No material is too crazy when it comes to costumes. This does come paired with the necessary challenges. In this instance the question was; how do you make a skirt from bubble wrap that is beautiful and remains well rounded. These skirts were a relatively last-minute addition to the performance and needed to be made quickly and many late evenings were spent getting them ready. A large part of these skirts are not sewn, but stuck together.

Gods and Dogs

From the costumes on stage

This mysterious work from 2008 visualizes the thin line between what is normal and what is insane. Or as Kylián puts it: “No positive developments can ever be achieved without the help of a healthy dose of madness.”

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The contrasts that are typical for this ballet, like instanity and reality, are also present in the costumes. The tops in Gods and Dogs are especially pleated to ensure that here the contrasts of light and dark become apparent.

The starting point for all costumes was the colour of the simple white linen pants. This colour was made especially for NDT in 2008. It is not easily reproduced. In-house painter Roos Mikx only had one chance to achieve the right colour, or the costumes would be ruined. This would mean that the entire costume needed to be remade.

Bella Figura

From the costumes on stage

The idea behind Bella Figura (1995) is a parable about the relativity of sensuality, beauty and aesthetics. In Italian, ‘Bella Figura’ does not only mean ‘beautiful figure’, but also the resilience of people in a difficult situation, or ‘keeping yourself going’.

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Silk is a beautiful fabric for tailors to work with. It lasts for a long time and seems to get better with age. Still, these fabrics, which are almost 30 years old, are kept in special acid-free boxes and in the dark. These fabrics are also specially dyed in-house to get exactly the right color.

The top edge of the skirt is especially important. These are tailor-made for each dancer and ensure that they stay in place while dancing. That way they can’t accidentally trip.

Substances are often time-bound. It can be difficult to find exactly the right material, especially when reviving older pieces. The same goes for the black pants in Bella Figura. The makers often spend hours searching online for the right fabrics in the strangest places.