'So You Think You Can Dance': Costumes have to help 'tell the story' yet be able to move

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During the audition rounds, skimpy dance shorts and sports bras for women and a melange of jeans and dance pants for men is the standard uniform.

But as FOX's "So You Think You Can Dance" heats up on Wednesdays, once the auditions are out of the way, the dancers segue into real costumes. And that's where Marina Toybina comes in. The costume designer's goal is "to be able to tell a story," she tells Zap2it. "That is what was great about last season -- we were able to create most of the costumes, rather than shop them."

As of deadline, the show was still in auditions and costumes had not yet been created because the final dancers were not chosen. Toybina reflects on last season's costumes, and explains how she creates hundreds with a staff of 15.

Unlike any other costumes, which mainly need to project character and story, a dance costume must also allow for freedom of movement. 'The first thing and most important is for me to understand where the performance is going on a choreography level," Toybina says. "As well as being able to assemble the dresses properly to assist and execute a certain performance, then it comes down to finding the right materials." 

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After doing proper fittings and embellishing each piece, a lot of detail goes into each performance piece -- to use the right elastic to finish the trim right, with rhinestones making sure it does not weigh them down. It is so important for me that they are comfortable. At the end of the day they can perform and truly move and flow through the stage."


Toybina particularly loved the costumes, which have a balletic feel. "All of the details on the costumes were done by hand," she says. "And since that was one of our larger numbers, I was working on the costumes for a few days trying to find that material. It was romantic, but a very structural type vibe."

Toybina and her staff cut strips of silk and rolled, then draped them across the costumes for a vine rose effect. "And all of those elements were sewn together by hand like ornate abstract flowers," she says.

Fik-Shun and Jasmine Harper costumes had an ethereal quality. "The idea was to show movement through almost a liquid form," Toybina says. "It was a dress where we had to figure out the proper movement. I remember rebuilding the skirt. I work a lot with silks and chiffons to represent movement."

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Amy Yakima and Harper's performance for last season's finale has a futuristic feel, so Toybina "wanted to incorporate elements of something fashion forward but not too" insane. To get these tutus to stand out straight, she used piping from Home Depot and laid the metallic material over it.
Photo/Video credit: FOX