By Katie Fraser

For most, the word “Cirque” immediately conjures up visions of acrobats, contortionists and gymnasts.

The aerialist-type circus made famous by Cirque du Soleil is now performed by multiple production companies internationally.

One of which  is Cirque Production.

And this holiday season, Cirque Production is bringing its holiday theme show, Cirque Dreams Holidaze, to the Twin Cities.

What always strikes me about these types of shows is how easy the performers make each act look, even when I know how difficult it truly is.

But as difficult as it is to perform these acts of athleticism and grace, it must be equally as difficult to create the clothes in which these acts can be performed.

Enter head Cirque Dreams costume designer Lenora Taylor Nikitin.

Nikitin has been with Cirque Dreams since she was 17, and in her time with the company has created thousands of costumes that complement each performer’s movements and makeup.

Nikitin spoke with me about what goes into making the looks for this show and what costume she loves the most.

(credit: Cirque Productions)

(credit: Cirque Productions)

So you are the head designer for Cirque Dreams Holidaze, what led you to costume designing in the first place? How did you get to become the designer for this particular show?

Taylor Nikitin: I have always loved fashion and costume design. I started seeing [that] when I was six years old and began working professionally with costumes at age 17. I began working for Cirque productions as the touring Wardrobe Supervisor. I worked my way up to head designer because Neil Goldberg said that I had an amazing gift for designing and creating costumes.

That’s wonderful that you had such a great environment to grow in. What other types of shows have you designed for?

Taylor Nikitin: I have designed costumes for “Alice in Wonderland” for a children’s theater, but most of my design career has been for Cirque Dreams.

Cirque Dreams Holidaze is now in its 7th year and it travels to countless cities. Tell me, how many new costumes did you have to make for the Twin Cities performance of Cirque Dreams Holidaze?

Taylor Nikitin: There are over 300 costumes in Cirque Dreams Holidaze and everything was created in our studio.

As this is a “circus” performance of sorts, how does creating costumes for aerialists and other Cirque performers differ from making costumes for more traditional stage performances?

Taylor Nikitin: Fit and style is so important in the design of aerialist and all circus costumes. Stretch is very important to all of our performers because their costume needs to move with their body and not prohibit them from making the movements choreographed for their act.

(credit: Cirque Productions)

(credit: Cirque Productions)

What type of fabric do you use the most?

Taylor Nikitin: We have a huge inventory of spandex that we have purchased from all over the world.

I should have guessed that was the fabric most used! So, being that this is an annual show many things probably stay the same. But I’m sure new elements are added every year. How do the costumes differ from year to year?

Taylor Nikitin: While some of the costumes for Cirque Dreams Holidaze have remained the same over the years, we create several new designs for new performers and scenes for the show each and every year. This year, for the first time there are two female vocalists, the Ice Queen and the Angel, that have a costume change where they become elves. These Elf costumes are brand new, vibrant and exciting additions to the show.

Wow, that’s a big change! It must be fun to get to create new costumes each year. Over all the years I’m sure you have your challenges, what was the most challenging costume you’ve had to make for 2015?

Taylor Nikitin: Every costume has its own challenges, but most challenging costumes have been for the flipping cookies.

(credit: Cirque Productions)

(credit: Cirque Productions)

I can imagine why that would be tricky! What is your favorite costume you’ve made? 

Taylor Nikitin: My all-time favorite costume is the Ice Queen. We spent weeks hand sewing thousands of Swarovski Crystals and other gems to give her an “icy” look. I am always happy seeing her perform under the lights. She truly is a unique character that really sets to mood for the holidays!

(credit: Cirque Productions)

(credit: Cirque Productions)

Cirque Dreams Holidaze” is performing at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11 and 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12. Tickets cost $29.50 to $89.50. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit the Hennepin Theatre Trust online.

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