While a national character dance generally represents a country or region, such as Russian ballet or Highland Fling, a demi-character dance tells a specific story, such as the tale of a saucy schoolgirl or Cinderella. For some dancers, the easy part is the dancing, with finding a matching costume being the most nerve-racking task. With a little imagination and some visits to thrift shops, home closets, dance stores or costume shops and swaps, a dance-friendly costume can be made to fit most characters.
Base your character and costume on a well-known role in dance or theatre. Your costume should be reminiscent enough of the original costume that audience members either recognise you right away or say "Of course!" when they read your dance title. Look for characters that have very recognisable ensembles. For example, Madame Thenardier from "Les Miserables" and the Polichinelles from "The Nutcracker" have distinctive outfits.
Turn to popular culture for inspiration by grabbing your character from a book, story, movie, television show, comic book or other medium that is well-known. Try to capture the character in your costume or copy elements of his or her costume. For example, The Mad Hatter from "Alice in Wonderland" should sport a vividly coloured top hat, tails, ascot and slacks, while Arwen from "The Lord of the Rings" would require flowing gowns in light hues.
Create Your Own
Making up your own story allows you individuality and creative flexibility. Choose a theme or character that is general, and make up a story about him. Many of these costumes can be cobbled together from common clothes with details added. For example, if you are telling the story of a soldier, khaki shorts, a button up shirt with insignia ironed on, and a canteen can convey the character, while a maid may wear a black skirt, puff-sleeved fitted black shirt, doily on her head, and a white apron, with a feather duster as a prop.
Twist It Up
Browse through costume shops or catalogues for ideas that you can twist for a new take on an old idea. For example, a typical "Little Red Riding Hood" costume might consist of a hooded red cape, dress, braids, picnic basket and sandals. "Little Red Riding in the Hood," however, could consist of red hooded sweatshirt and parachute trousers, cornrows, a "blinged-out" picnic basket and red pointe shoes or dance sneakers.
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- "George Balanchine's The Nutcracker"; Joel Meyerowitz; 2003
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- "Ballet: A Dancer's Diary"; Elizabeth Bennett; 2007