Life backstage: Getting ready for “The Nutcracker”

 

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Emily Cawood dyes men’s ballet shoes for the roles of the Russian dancers in “The Nutcracker.”

On Tuesday, we stopped by the Ballet Austin wardrobe shop to visit with and interview Emily Cawood, shoe manager and wardrobe assistant.

Like all of the artistic and production artists at Ballet Austin, Cawood spends nearly two months in preparation for “The Nutcracker,” which this year opens Dec. 6.

With its huge list of roles and multiple casts — not to mention elaborate and elegant new costumes acquired just last year — Ballet Austin’s “Nutcracker” finds Cawood dyeing dozens of womens’ pointe shoes, mens’ ballet slippers and childrens’ shoes. Prepping costumes, stitching decorative headpieces and loading everything into the Long Center is also on Cawood’s ‘to do’ list.

Herself a performer (she’s a competitive karoke singer and a substitute performer at comedy club Ester’s Follies), Cawood’s fond of documenting her work for Ballet Austin on social media grouping it with #lifebackstage, a strangely under-utilized hashtag. (She’s @sewknotwrite on Instagram.)

Cawood’s documenting is understandable: The visuals of backstage costume work are irresistible.

Cawood will be the focus of a story to run Dec. 4.

Until then, here’s a look at what I couldn’t resist visually in the Ballet Austin wardrobe workshop.

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Cawood mostly uses acrylic paint to dye ballet shoes, carefully mixing different hues to match the color of custom-dyed tights and costumes.

 

 

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Ballet Austin’s wardrobe workshop is a meticulously organized room that’s filled with the colorful tools of the costuming trade. Rows of thread stand at the ready.

 

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After a while, the canvas drop cloth Cawood uses on her work table becomes a work of abstract art in itself.

 

 

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Simple haphazard arrangements emerge as visually intriguing arrangements. Here, elastic straps recently dyed purple dry against a well-used canvas drop cloth

 

 

 

Author: Jeanne Claire van Ryzin

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is the arts critic for the Austin American-Statesman. She writes about visual art, theater, dance, music, performance, public art, architecture and just about any combination thereof.

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