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The Colorado Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” Invites You to be Part of the Magic

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Duct tape. Hot glue. Gallons of paint, emergency patches, and even vodka. As you watch ballet dancers perform in The Colorado Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker, most of the costumes and sets are being held together with items you might see in a hardware store. With skillful lighting and the view from the audience, you are probably unaware that the gorgeous flouncy and dreamy costumes are more than thirty years old. 

Not only are they thirty years old, they came to Denver via the San Francisco Ballet in 2005. Imagine the athletic demands of leaping around in delicate, hand-sewn thirty-year-old clothes every day in December. Principal dancers, Chandra Kuykendall, Francisco Estevez, and Asuka Sasaki shared stories of how costume mishaps affect performances. While they are seasoned professionals who know how to handle pressure, they tell tales of fingers getting trapped in fraying threads and the Nutcracker doll breaking at inopportune moments. When you watch scenes with masked dancers, know they have to wear goggles underneath because of little bits of foam that flake off into their eyes. Mother Ginger is literally held together with painted duct tape. Kuykendall, who recently announced her retirement after this season, expressed there are sentimental attachments to the costumes and sets, but it’s time for a change. 

The Colorado Ballet has launched a campaign to raise funds for brand new costumes and sets called Go Fund the Magic. 2020 will mark the 60th-anniversary production of The Nutcracker. The hope, according to Artistic Director Gil Boggs, is that new costumes and sets will last another thirty years. With proper storage in a new climate-controlled facility, the $2.5 million investment will ensure a new generation of The Nutcracker fans will be able to enjoy high quality, deeply artistic production that remains part of a beloved holiday tradition. 

Why do tulle and sequins cost so much? Again, quality. The Colorado Ballet needs 300 hand-sewn costumes. They are to be created in five shops around the United States, including a shop here in Colorado. The current Sugarplum Fairy costume, for example, cost $7,000. Seeing it close, the detail and care in construction is stunning. Likewise, the enormous set, with backdrops, props, and whimsical touches are to be handmade in the US. 

If you and your family are among the 60,000 audience members who attend a performance of The Nutcracker each year, you might be attached to the current costumes and sets. They become familiar friends. The quirky owl clock, the magic gift boxes, the growing Christmas tree, the old-fashioned glow of candlelight — you don’t want to imagine the experience without these elements. Boggs assures ballet-goers that they are keeping the Victorian style alive. It’s exciting to anticipate what the renowned designers, partnered with The Colorado Ballet will dream up for next year’s production. 

There are still tickets available to watch The Nutcracker’s final season using the current costumes and sets. They have served Colorado well for so many years. 

You can partner with The Colorado Ballet as they crowdfund a small portion of what they need to complete this project. Most of the $2.5 million will come from ticket sales and donations. Through Go Fund the Magic you can be a part of the historic effort to bring The Nutcracker into the 2020s and beyond. Click to learn more about the effort. There’s a great video that explains the campaign with dancer testimonies and close-up shots of the deteriorating costumes. Imagine sitting in the audience a year from now when the curtain rises on a new era for the production — and your generosity is forever a part of the magical holiday scene that unfolds. 

Gretchen White
Author: Gretchen White

Gretchen is a mom of nine careening toward 50 in Colorado. She writes about the people, places and things she loves.

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