Text by Evan McKie 

Evan McKie talks to the Manager of Costume Production for Stuttgart Ballet, Diana Eckmann...

11th. Issue
Serial Report from Stuttgart by Evan McKie (Principal at The Stuttgart Ballet)

Hello Chacott friends! The job that Diana Eckmann has is one of the most ''behind the scenes'' occupations in the theatre but she is an unsung hero and such an integral part of bringing a performance to life! For my Dance Cube summer special, I decided to ask her some questions that are sure to be of interest!…Have a wonderful summer. See you soon!
-Evan in Stuttgart!

Evan: Could you explain to the Chacott readers what it is you do?

Diana: Well, there are 195 people working in the costume and makeup departments at Staatstheater Stuttgart and I am right in the middle of all the action. It is my job to assist proper communication between the dance department and the workshops that make the
costumes for the dancers. I am able to translate what a dancer or choreographer needs from their costume into technical terms so that the workshop understands and can do the best work possible. I also organize everything from dying costumes, to hats, accessories, ordering the necessary fabrics and often finding ways to assist a compromise between the ballet and the workshop. It is important for me to deal with the given monetary and time-budget that we are allowed for each production and it is also relevant for me to have a deep knowledge of what each job requires in this department from the dressers, tailors, shoemakers, hat makers, dyeing technicians to the dancers and administration of the Stuttgart Ballet, themselves.  It sounds crazy but it is a passion!

E: How often do you work?
D: 40 Hours a week..but that turns into 50 pretty quickly. We end up working quite a few weekends as well.

E: Tell me about some challenging productions…
D: Anything from Jürgen Rose is a challenge…''Onegin'', ''Sleeping Beauty'' and so on. He is such a fantastic designer and has had such a long history with the company that we try our hardest to keep the quality and exact color to some of the extremely hard to find fabrics and materials he initially used in the original productions decades ago. The details are impeccable and must be perfectly matched when we have to repair a costume.  I also found Chistian Spuck's ''Orphee'' to be quite complicated. The concept and design by Christian and Emma Ryott were sumptuous and lavish period costumes. There were so many sequins and so much embroidery involved that at one point we found ourselves calculating way outside of our budget! That means I got up at 4 in the morning everyday to go visit new suppliers and research ways to use materials that were glamorous but within or near our budget! It is also my job to not make the costume designer feel like she has to compromise on every little thing. That can stifle the creativity and cause immense frustration!
Recently in Demis Volpi's popular story ballet, ''Krabat'', we had to create a costume for a character called Pumputt that keeps changing identities and costumes that must all fit into one costume for each magical revealing moment! I cannot say more about how we managed to make the 4-7 second costume changes appear so seamless and easy, but I can tell you that it was the most complicated costume I have ever worked on.

evan1307.jpg © Roman Novitzky

E: Are there some easy productions?
D: Glen Tetley's Rite of Spring is a ballet where the dancers wear almost nothing but nevertheless, the fabrics must all be dyed in a very specific way. And ''leotard ballets'' like Balanchine pieces etc are not as easy as expected! Dancers require the right fit for each of their individual bodies.

E: Are there some things that people may not realize about your job?
D: The whole job is quite misunderstood by most people I think! Lots think that when I'm not in fittings, Im sitting around having coffee all day! I'm sure my husband think that! (Laugh)

E: How did you start???
D: I always like theatre and fashion. When I graduated from school as a wardrobe student, I created a Manga Look for a girl. It turns out, that the director of the costume department at the Staatstheater was there and then he offered me a job as a ''production assistant''.
When I entered the theatre things were extremely busy because of a new production of Don Quixote in the ballet department so I was given the chance to be a wardrobe mistress at the Opera because they needed people so badly at that particular moment! It was a quick
step up and I worked there for 6 weeks! But then the Production manager for the ballet costumes suddenly got pregnant! By then I had accumulated some much needed experience with singers and dancers so I was given the job that I have now! It all happened so fast and I am grateful.

E: How is Stuttgart different from other theaters that you have visited?
D: I believe the standard is better than most theaters that I have seen. We all work on site and things move so fast that everybody remains enthusiastic about new challenges. People work together so well and learn from each other. The conditions are quite good and there are many opportunities that continually present themselves. We also have a 'decoration' department which is not common in every theater. It seems to me like each department is highly specialized at their individual craft which shows in the quality of the work.

E: Who are some of the most challenging costumes designers been that you've worked with.
D: The challenge with a highly talented designer is trying to anticipate what they might need and trying to think for them when they are not around for crucial weeks leading up to the production. Designers are busy and only fly in and out for fittings and stage rehearsals!
Again, I always pay special attention to Jürgen Rose's costumes over the years and I am always looking forward to the huge concepts and period costumes that Emma Ryott has to offer each time she comes to work on a Christian Spuck ballet! John Neumeier expects the
highest level of quality from us as well and we must deliver!

E: Who are some of the fun designers?
D: I always have fun with Emma Ryott and all of Wayne McGregor's designers have been a joy to work with!

E: What are YOUR favorite costumes?
D: Though costumes are my job, I don't like costumes that steal the focus from the ballet and dancers themselves… That's my taste. I LOVE Glenn Tetley's ''Voluntaries'' and ''Sacre de Printemps''. The costumes are not ''too obvious'' but instead they are an integral part of assisting the movement and atmosphere of each piece. ''Sacre'' has costumes by Nadine Baylis and ''Voluntaries'' by Rouben Ter-Arutunian. I also get swept away by Jürgen Rose's ''Onegin''. All of the costumes are superb and seem timeless to me.

E: What is the process of 'fitting dancers' like?
D: It's extremely interesting and is a big chunk of my daily routine. A dancer's tool and instrument is their body so it is a very delicate process. In the dance world there are so many opinions of what is flattering to the body and what isn't! The funny thing is that every
company has a different idea of what materials are the most comfortable and useable for leotards and tights….and the even funnier thing is that each ballet company even has it's own individual taste in ballet 'bodies' !! Each theater is different and, as you can imagine, and I enjoy this one very much.

evan.jpg Evan McKie

Evan McKie is a Principal Dancer with the Stuttgart Ballet and a resident guest artist with the National Ballet of Canada. He has performed with the Paris Opera Ballet, The Tokyo Ballet, Ballet de Santiago de Chile and Universal Ballet in Seoul.
McKie is Canadian and was born in Toronto in 1983. He has been nominated for Dance Europe Magazine's 'critics choice' list many times over the past ten years and is also the recipient of the ApuliArte Prize for artistic achievement.
McKie is also a visual artist and a part-time writer. He is an honorary advisory board member at Dance Magazine, US.
Evan is thrilled to be a spokesperson for the Chacott brand.

Twitter http://twitter.com/EVANMcKIE
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