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Friday, May 7, 2021

Dancewear not your thing? Here’s your weekly gallery of crazy costumes in New York City Ballet’s fall performances

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Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” wasn’t just the first song I remember humming, it seemed to herald a new age of melodic ballads. The first time I heard “A Thousand Years,” I didn’t know what to make of it — were it a love song or some kind of actual dance party?

When I asked Missy Elliott for a remix, she delivered an eye-popping vocal in the verse, which helped add sex appeal to the track.

But what about the costumes? Who can resist costume singing, the practice of singing dressed as somebody else for photo ops? Dancewear, available at the big box stores, is often unimaginative, so I went with a bolder approach in my quest to impress the judges.

The need for flamboyance made New Orleans-born Isabella Isabelle, the San Francisco dancer making her New York City Ballet debut at the Philharmonic tonight, all the more interesting to me. Isabella, 19, was spotted in a very un-ballerina-like ensemble, reaching for the number ballerinas roll in during their routine. Yaaas, she could roll with the best of them.

The outlandish costumes weren’t just for show. This week, Isabella will dance the pas de deux with William J. Gillespie. They’re back in their trademark 1940s getups: A bold pink, tutu-inspired top and a crimson wool suit for the skirts, reminiscent of the Cardigan War, Isabella’s favorite costumes from growing up.

Isabella’s job was to find a unique expression for her character’s little black dresses — she first explored the subculture of scantily clad 1930s chicks in New Orleans where she spent her childhood. Her final look, in the least eye-catching of all the performances, mimicked the patriotic lead by Erika van Pelt (the scariest.) In her upcoming show, “Carousel,” the San Francisco dancer will have more options to be up-to-no-good.

Mimi Howard also engaged in an exhaustive costume search, seeking inspiration everywhere from Zanzibar to the Museum of Modern Art. The Houston dancer landed on a sexy spangled outfit inspired by what she called a “love at first sight” moment. “You definitely want to display your femininity,” she said, “and you definitely want to do the operatic thing, you want to show off your ‘I’m looking for a man’ expression, your passion.”

Jemma Hall and Ericka James, in the Pacific Northwest this week, were the highlight of the episode. Hall has been a trained ballet dancer her entire life, but in the last year the Arizona artist has turned to hip-hop for her dance vocabulary. In her studio, we’ll meet the only woman in the award-winning McCaul House Ballet. James has been dancing since she was 5-years-old, but she’s joining the U.S. Ballet School for her professional debut.

Two of the ballerinas seemed to have more fun with their designs than any of the other dancers did. Krista Seago, the first dancer to share a moment from her “sad, isolated existence” section, dances in the weirdest video ever. Titled “I don’t want to be here,” the Canadian dancer took her routine in the skies to helium balloons.

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