I wasn’t sure what to expect when I sat down to watch the National Dance Company of Siberia’s performance, but, wow, I was blown away. The energetic dancing, Siberian music, and elaborate costumes were unlike anything I’ve seen before.
The show, part of Dollywood’s Festival of Nations, brings 52 performers from Siberia to Tennessee. The men and women range in age from 17 to 40. Many in the group graduated from the same dance and ballet school in Siberia. The National Dance Company of Siberia itself dates back to 1960.
The group brought roughly 200 costumes with them to Dollywood. They are handmade and designed uniquely for each performer. While the wardrobes are incredibly ornate, they must also be fitted to move with the performers as they maneuver through the vigorous dances.
I didn’t see each costume for long, though. The 40-minute show includes seven lightning-fast costume changes.
Some of the vivid costumes are inspired by various regions of Siberia. Others are more lighthearted, such as the chicken-inspired costumes complete with feathers (kids – and adults – will LOVE the “chicken dance” number).
I really liked how the video screen backdrop changed to reflect the dances and costumes. For one dance, a snowy mountainside background was matched with performers’ blue dresses and shirts with jewel-encrusted accents. I felt like I was immersed in a Siberian winter wonderland.
After the show, I had the chance to go backstage to see the costumes up close and learn about the method behind the quick changes.
Everything is carefully planned and organized. Just offstage, the costumes are strategically arranged by dance.
Two wardrobe managers (often former dancers) are positioned backstage to help performers in their changes between numbers. Each costume has a performer’s name inside it, which helps avoid any mix-ups. Since the costumes are custom-made for each performer, it’s essential that the dancers change into the right ensemble.
The changes are fast – sometimes dancers have only one minute before they must be back on stage.
Though the performers’ appearances can vary greatly between numbers, the costume changes have been carefully planned so that the transitions require the least amount of moving parts. For example, one change might entail only switching a top or throwing on an extra layer. But you’d never know it, as each costume seems to be even more elaborate than the last.
The show is so heavily focused on costumes, the dance numbers are arranged to accommodate the necessary wardrobe changes!
The wardrobe company and its 50 costume designers had to get creative when crafting the costumes for Dollywood’s show, since they would need to be condensed for transportation from Siberia. Some of the designs were modified so that they could be compressed easier for shipment to the park.
Don’t miss the National Dance Company of Siberia’s amazing production at DP’s Celebrity Theater during the Festival of Nations now through April 9. Kids will love the energy and comical dances, while the adults will enjoy the exposure to a fascinating culture.