The Nutcracker is one of the icons of ballet, even if it is often somehow denigrated as being ‘only’ appropriate for the Christmas season. Dance companies around the world have shaped their own arrangements of Tchaikovsky’s music, some diverging very far afield.
The Brooklyn Nutcracker is a gem among reimaginings, a fusion of ballet, hip-hop, and modern dances that always moves in more and more experimental directions. This year, it is perhaps the costumes that have to take center stage, even beyond the talented dancers.
Designed by Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman, the costumes for the 2016 Brooklyn Nutcracker are nothing short of entrancing. Pailes-Friendman, who is an adjunct associate professor of industrial design and fasion design, has combined both to craft wearable miracles. Her costumes seem to have begun as classical Degas-style ballet skirts, but they have been elevated by layers of hand-dyed tulle, and hand-stitched fiber optics, into beauties of technology. Other costumes have secret art that unfurls under YV light. Everything glitters and gleams. Skirts respond to motion or the touch of a dancer’s hand—her Nutcracker is an illuminated masterpiece.
Wearable art-tech is not new, but it is currently undergoing a surge in public awareness. Popular online store ThinkGeek carries a skirt illuminated with removable LEDs—it is so popular that most sizes are usually on back-order. Illuminated, animated headphones turn music-lovers into cats, dogs, and deer in all kinds of improbable colors. And this is only what has filtered down into the common market. Fashion runways flash and transform and strobe.
Pailes-Friedman and the Brooklyn Ballet Company are right at the knife-edge intersection of what technology makes possible in art. One hopes to see her designs in a few years available for the rest of us. For now, though, it’s worth it to go and see them dance on stage.