As home to two of the nation's top dance departments, the Marriott Center for Dance is a rich epicenter of activity and creativity on the University of Utah campus. But deep within the center, beneath the dance studios and performance spaces, lies a hidden gem of imagination and invention: the costume shop.
In striking contrast to its basement location, the costume shop is filled with sunlight, energy, and activity. Large working surfaces for cutting and constructing costumes fill the center of the space. Bolts of brightly colored fabrics reach to the ceiling on one side; on the other is the dye room, stocked with every imaginable color for the custom design of each costume.
Presiding over the costume shop is the passionate heart and creative mind of Steve Rasmussen BS'79, its director. Rasmussen brings to his job a wealth of knowledge in textile design, garment construction, visual art, and, of course, the world of dance. Above all, he exudes an enthusiasm and deep respect for his role at the Marriott Center for Dance. "I love my job, I really love it," he says. "There is not one day that I look at the clock waiting for the day to end." Joining Rasmussen in the studio is a small staff of three: an assistant and two part-time stitchers.
For over seven years, Rasmussen has led his team in the design and construction of a staggering number of costumes. With the growth in national stature of both the ballet and modern dance departments, the scale of individual performances has soared. This means that Rasmussen and his assistants must produce hundreds of handmade costumes for upwards of 12 productions every year.
The design of each costume results from a fusion of intuitive, intellectual, and aesthetic approaches. Utilizing his early studies in psychology, Rasmussen analyzes the choreographer's needs and desires, then listens carefully to the music and attends numerous rehearsals, all with the goal of determining what would add the perfect visual complement to a choreographic work. The irony is that it is this hard work and attention to detail that keep the costume shop hidden from the public's view. Just as the skilled dancer's seamless performance belies years of grueling, behind-the-scenes work, so does the skillfully tailored costume become an inseparable element of the dance performance.
And that's exactly the point of the intensive labor, long hours, and painstaking detail, according to Rasmussen. "I think that the dancers deserve it," he says simply. "That's why I want our work to be so good, because the dancers work so hard. No one can imagine how hard they work."
Duffin BA'93 MA'98 is marketing manager of the ASUU Presenter's Office
and an instructor in the art department.
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