by Joke Visser, former head of costume workshop
image: john macfarlane
“‘Till the next!’
These three words, scribbled at the bottom of the costume sketch for Jiří Kylián’s Tanz Schul, are engraved in my memory. They were written by the designer John MacFarlane, whom I admire for his beautiful drawings and atmospheric and colorful images. This versatile assignment of around eighty different and very detailed costumes was a great challenge.
I started as a freelancer in 1978 making costumes for Nederlands Dans Theater, after which I was offered a permanent contract in 1987. This moment coincided with the opening of the new theater on the Spui square in The Hague. It resulted in a collaboration of thirty years during which I was allowed to work with many choreographers and costume designers to realize their ideas.
Those years also inaugurated my collaboration with Jiří Kylián. A great mutual appreciation arose between us and I had the honor to supplement his ideas with my own creativity. Basically this means that departing from a costume design, which could be a drawing or image from a book or magazine, I was able to make choices about fabrics and colors. Many fabrics are dyed by hand, which brings the advantage that you can determine all the nuances of colors yourself.
The choices of fabrics are decisive for the effect you want to see on stage. Tight, smooth, matte, glossy, textured and so on. Many times silk is preferred, mainly because the material makes dancers feel beautiful as it adds an extra depth under the stage lights.
The functionality of costumes is obvious. The ideas of the designers are invisibly reconciled with the practical wishes of each dancer.
Not only the selection of fabrics and the determination of the colors, but also the realization of each part of the costume requires intensive contact between the atelier and stakeholders. With the dedication and professionalism of choreographers, costume designers as well as atelier employees, countless costumes have been created on that small piece of floor where so many beautiful dancers have been dressed… The fitting room of the costume workshop!”