High Five on Managing Company Costumes

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could quickly pick costumes for your dancers, order them and be done with the process? Of course, that’s never the case. Instead, you spend weeks analyzing the options in every costume catalog you can get your hands on. You have to keep in mind the size and shape of your dancers and the price of each costume—and then there’s the alteration game. Costume time is tricky, but Heather Southwell, artistic director of Keegan Dance Company in Titusville, FL, is here with some tips to help make it all a bit more manageable.


1. Create a flat fee. We set one costume fee for group costumes. The fee is an average—clearly some costumes cost more than others. The funds are pooled together to pay for all costumes that season.


2. Keep it about the dancing. The costume should never detract from the piece—it should only add. We want the focus totally on the dancers, not just what they’re wearing.


3. Be inspired by friends. We’ve had success buying from other studios or repurposing their old costumes. If I see outfits at a competition that I really like, I’ll ask the studio director if she’s interested in selling them. It helps keep our parents’ costume costs down, and it’s a win-win for both studios.


4. Cleanliness is key. At dress rehearsals we provide the parents with instructions for cleaning costumes, plus a spray bottle of our costume cleaning solution (one part water, one part cheap vodka). This kills bacteria and odors and is perfect for costumes that can’t be hand-washed.


5. Flattery matters. If we can’t select one style that flatters all the dancers in a particular number, we will create variations of the look. Dance is an art, and the dancer’s body is the facility through which the art is expressed, so we do sometimes opt for midriff-baring costumes when appropriate. But there’s a time and a place for it, and age-appropriateness must always be considered.


Photo courtesy of Keegan Dance Company

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