|| The Boston Herald
|| November 8, 2012
|| Jill Radsken
Creating the costumes for Boston Ballet’s new “Nutcracker” had Charles Heightchew on his toes for nearly a year. Fourteen hundred yards of hand-painted tulle; 250,000 Swarovski crystals; 350 costumes.
“It’s such a comprehensive scope. It’s easy to leave the small details by the side and then you realize,‘It’s not a small detail,’” said Heightchew, manager of costumes and wardrobe for the ballet.
Three years ago, artistic director Mikko Nissinen called for new sets and costumes for the iconic work, and Heightchew’s staff has been sewing itself silly ever since.
In a visit to the ballet’s costume shop in the troupe’s South End studios, designers soldered new tiaras and headpieces while dressmakers hand-stitched jewels to tutus. Heightchew described the new look — think 1820s “Pride and Prejudice” — as more restrained but no less visually exciting than the past “Nutcracker.”
“Kids will be astounded,” he said. “It’s more subtle, but it’s much more intense in level of detail.”
The dancers in “Waltz of the Flowers,” for example, used to wear large, brightly colored skirts made to look like petals. Now they will don delicate pleated tulle (hand-dyed in New York) skirts.
“The old ones were particularly heavy so the (dancers) were excited that they’re lighter,”Heightchew said.
The Nutcracker himself also got less-is-more treatment. Heightchew said this toy man is less shiny than his predecessor.
“He looks more enameled, less plasticated. He has a smaller head, a little less scary,” hesaid.
Most of the 350 new costumes, which will make their stage debut Nov. 23, were made in-house, but costume shops from Somerville to Ontario helped out.
“This is everything from the beginning,” he said.
Stopping at a table where a costumer was attaching nearly 4,000 crystals to a tutu, Heightchew- said the sparkles enhance the streamlined look of the show. “It’s important they help describe the story and move it along, but at the end of theday it’s about the dancing,” he said.