Based in New York City, Holly Hynes is an internationally acclaimed costume designer. Over the last year, she has been working with The Australian Ballet School to reproduce Karinska’s original design for the School’s 45th year anniversary performances.

Holly HynesWhat can the audience expect from your costume design?
The audience can expect an articulate reproduction of Karinska’s original design.

Describe the process which has been followed to produce the costumes for this year’s performance?
After receiving the call from the school over a year ago, I put together a “bible” or record book with guidelines for making the costumes for 5 ballerinas, 3 male dancers and the 8 corps de ballet. This includes photographs of the original costumes which are still used by the New York City Ballet. This was then sent to Australia for the costume department to estimate the cost of making these designs. Next, we had to search for the fabrics followed by completing the pattern making. After several fittings and hours sewing in the shop, the ballet is ready for dress rehearsal. I am not traveling to Australia to see the dress but I look forward to seeing photographs of the final project.

Tell us about the research you undertake prior to commencing the design process?
Having spent over 20 years recreating Karinska designs some of this comes to me in my sleep. The trick is putting it down on paper so others can learn from my experience.

Which aspect of Karinska’s design is most challenging to recreate?
The hardest part of trying to reproduce a Karinska design is trying to duplicate fabrics from the 40‘s and the 50s in the 21st century.

To which costume piece featured in the ballet schools’ production are you most emotionally attached?
I love the pale blue corps de ballet. The tutu plates remind me of rippling patterns on a pond. They have beautiful beaded seashells in their hair that are totally decadent.

How much contact does the design team have with the dancers?
In a new production the designer watches rehearsal as much as possible. It’s great to be able to see some of the steps before you put pencil to paper. For example if a choreographer has a dancer drag a ballerina across the floor then perhaps the designer will decide not to use silk chiffon for a long skirt.

What attracts you to theatrical and ballet costume design?
I love the journey a designer takes from a flat drawing to a three dimensional garment. My heart sings when I hear an audience OH or AH when the curtain reveals a new design.

What do you find challenging about costume reproduction?
Sometimes a company may be strong enough to dance the ballet but its costume department is not equipped to create Karinska works of art. If I am not familiar with the company, I always try to visit to have a hands on experience. In the case of the Australian Ballet School, I wasn’t worried about the tutus at all.

With whom did you learn in the early stages of your career, and which lesson have you never forgotten?
I studied costume design in college in Iowa and in New York City. After getting degrees in Theatre Arts and in Humanities I spent five years assisting Barbara Matera at her shop and then we both went to the New York City Ballet as a team. She stayed for a few years, I stayed for 21 years. That’s a lot of Nutcrackers! I will never forget Barbara telling me that when I am designing I should not over design; always leave a little air so the eye has somewhere to rest. I think Karinska would have agreed with her.

What is the most memorable piece you have had to design during your career?
A couple of years ago I designed Balanchine’s full-length Don Q as a joint production for the National Ballet of Canada and The Suzanne Farrell Ballet at the Kennedy Center. There were over 200 costumes, children, a donkey, a funeral procession with 40 dancers, and fantasy armor - heaven.

From what source do you draw your design inspiration?
Nature, research from books, art museums, fashion, history, even food.

What advice would you give to an aspiring costumer designer?
Go to every museum you can and soak up everything you see.

The Australian Ballet School celebrates its 45th Anniversary Season. Further details»

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