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Juilliard Dance

Published: September 1, 2006
Category: career talk

Career Transitions: Jason Hadley costume maker

By Rachel Straus

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo dance stopped performing at age 31.

“I toured with Trockadero for 7 years. We did 140-160 shows a year. I was tired! When I first joined the Trocks I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t stay there forever. I also knew what I wanted to do after my dance career.

I sat next to my mother and learned how to sew, starting at age five. Later I learned how to make my own things through books. When I was an apprentice at Ballet West, I would pull the costumes inside out, go home, and try to reproduce them.

My last performance with the Trocks was in February 2005. Immediately afterwards I made the costumes for a ballet performed by Complexions Dance Company. Then I worked at the Public Theater. I got a job in Barbara Matera’s shop, because I knew the right people. I affixed crystals on the dresses of 80 Rockettes costumes.

Holly Hines, the New York City Ballet costume director, was in the shop one day overseeing the production of her costumes for American Ballet Theatre’s Kaleidoscope. I went right up to her and I said, “You know, I sent you my resume and you never got back to me.” She said, “Oh, I’m really embarrassed.” The next day she returned and asked me if I wanted to work with her. I said, “Absolutely!”

When we recreated the costumes for Balanchine’s Western Symphony, I made ruffles on the costumes–for days. Now, with the Diamond Project, which comprises seven new ballets, I’m constantly sewing different costumes.

Because I know what dances we’re making many of these costumes for, I feel like I have a deeper understanding of the work. Holly coaches other company’s costume shops on how to make Balanchine costumes made by Karinska. She is the only one who keeps the Karinska legacy alive. I told her that I would like to be the next person.

As a dancer, I liked to think of myself as a perfectionist. A perfectionist loves the work, loves the ritual, the commitment. I knew that I wanted to work in costumes and that acquiring and perfecting skills was just as important as having talent. I read Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit twice. She believes that successful dancers leave their emotions at the door. They commit themselves to the work and not how the work affects them. I learned that as a dancer. At the costume shop I have been told, “it’s so nice to see someone who is not emotionally involved in the costumes.”

Being a Trock, not to sound arrogant, but you kind of feel like you’re a star, even when you take class. The hardest part is to no longer have that. I miss expressing myself physically. I miss the work, but I don’t miss the bump and grind of it all.”

Copyright 2006 Dance Magazine, Inc.


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