MOMENTUM: A ballet “fashion show”

Kelanie Murphy, Kogan Murphy, and Jessica Lopes model some of their 1920s finery for the premiere of Erika Overturff’s The Bee’s Knees.

From lavishly decorated classical tutus to shimmery flapper dresses, American Midwest Ballet’s upcoming Momentum offers as dazzling an array of looks as you’d see on any fashion-show runway.

Deborah Overturff, AMB’s award-winning costume designer, and her wardrobe crew have been busy researching, constructing, and meticulously hand-fitting the 139 unique costumes (including backups) that go into making this season’s Momentum a tribute to the art of style as well as the art of dance.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes peek at what makes Momentum look fabulous! Have a friend who’d enjoy it? Be sure to share!


Fredrick Davis’ new classical ballet Tchaikovsky Suite and the onstage premieres of four works created for last year’s Going Solo film series called for costumes in a range of styles.

Hand-made and hand-decorated tutus in sparkling jewel tones harmonize with the classical style of Fredrick Davis’s new ballet Tchaikovsky Suite.
Alexandra Hoffman’s “white swan” tutu, with its feathered headpiece and silver trim, graces her solo The Dying Swan.
Broadway legend Ann Reinking, who along with Dylis Croman taught The Trumpet Solo to Kelanie Murphy, is seen in the original performance costume at left; Kelanie in Deborah Overturff’s version at right. Deborah incorporated the original’s plunging bodice lines and “car wash-style” skirt (so called because its vertical strips resemble the ones in a car wash) in her interpretation.


Costumes for the opening scene of The Bee’s Knees evoke the elegance and excitement of a 1920s night on the town.

The biggest showcase for the Momentum wardrobe team is undoubtedly the premiere of Erika Overturff’s salute to the spirit of the Roaring ’20s, The Bee’s Knees. Its 13 scenes, with roles for every dancer in the company, feature characters costumed as everything from flappers and sheiks [their male equivalent] to speakeasy patrons to bathing beauties… not to mention a range of props including parasols, suffragette banners, and a bicycle!

Left: Dancer Anna Swenson gets a fitting for her gown for “Someone to Watch Over Me”. Center: Some of the vintage 1920s clothing used in the production came from as far away as the United Kingdom and Sweden. Right: Beads and feathers adorn this 1920s-inspired look on dancer Claire Goodwillie.
Wardrobe cabinets are stocked with all the accessories needed to give each look its finishing touches.

You will see many authentic 1920s dresses that have been reworked and reimagined to preserve the fantastic hand bead work and yet give the costumes the strength required for dance. Other pieces have been crafted in the 1920s style by draping right on the intended dancers’ bodies.

Hats and headpieces were a crowning touch in the ’20s. Clockwise from top left: Victor Smith checks his speakeasy look; vivid feathers for Nora Carr; Kogan Murphy adjusts the tilt of her hat; beads add drama for Jessica Lopes.

“The beautiful styles and details of these costumes really bring the ’20s to life,” says Erika. “I can’t wait for our audience to see the whole experience live on the stage!”

American Midwest Ballet will present Momentum at 7:30 pm Saturday, February 26, and 2 pm Sunday, February 27, at the Hoff Family Arts & Culture Center in Council Bluffs. Ticket prices range from $25 to $65. More about Momentum

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