4,000 Crystals and Not A Feather In Sight: The New Costumes Of “Swan Lake’’

–Hannah Cohen for Boston.com

The Boston Ballet’s upcoming production of “Swan Lake,’’ which runs at the Boston Opera House from October 30 through November 9, features a new suite of costumes designed by Robert Perdziola. Perdziola, who also designed sets for the production, had previously collaborated with artistic director Mikko Nissinen on the Boston Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker.’’

When Boston.com visited the Boston Ballet’s South End studio with visions of Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis dancing in our heads, we were pleasantly surprised to see the bevy of ballerinas donning more of a legacy tribute than reinvention of the wheel.

The Black Swan costume is emblazoned with more than 4,000 gold and amber crystals with a herringbone pattern bodice comprised of black velvet and gold embroidery and lamé. “Mikko said that he’s not interested in this [costume] being a black bird of sorts; he wanted it to be a beautiful black dress and very rich,’’ said Perdziola.


“I needed for the White Swan to be a much purer spirit,’’ Perdziola said. “I don’t think that she holds up under a lot of weight given through jeweling or detail. It has to be simpler and purer. It’s more about showing off the dancer’s body through the bodice with only a hint of the swan.’’

“When depicting swans, one has to be careful how literal one gets, especially when young female dancers are concerned,’’ Perdziola said. “I can talk feathers all I want, but I certainly don’t want to create stuffed animals waltzing across the stage. It’s not like that scene out of ‘Funny Girl’ when she’s at the Follies doing a chicken-like ballet.’’

The process for designing the costumes is as dependent on choreography as the story: “You need to get the costume in mock-up form and have [the dancers] move before you really realize what you have,’’ Perdziola said. “As much sketching as you do, there’s a lot of trial and error in the cut of the bodice and the dag of the tutu before I arrive at something.’’

Perdziola said the costumes in The Boston Ballet’s 2004 production of “Swan Lake’’ (also under the direction of Nissinen) were inspired by the Renaissance, while the 2014 version will be more of a “gothic, romantic tale.’’


“There have been a lot of reinventions of ‘Swan Lake’ in recent years,’’ he said. “This is one that is a bit more straightforward.’’

“One of the problems at the old production was if one engages in putting actual plumage or feathers on tutu plates or bodices, they have to come off for dry cleaning, and don’t last,’’ he said. “This feather trim in this production is achieved through layers of poly-organza ribbon that trim the tutus and bodices.’’

Expect to see Perdziola’s work in Boston again: “When Mikko and I talked about his overall vision of the production, he said he wanted a depiction of ‘Swan Lake’ that was reliable and salable for the company. He wanted one that would last a number of years.’’

Mikko Nissinen’s “Swan Lake’’ opens at the Boston Ballet on October 30.

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