Cirque's Bettina Bolzer Bowles on the Michael Jackson Immortal World Tour costumes
Photo courtesy OSA Images
Costumes by Zaldy Goco
©2011 Cirque-Jackson I.P., LLC
The performers in Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour don't just dance-they flip, fly, swing, slide (you get the idea).
And they do it all in costumes maintained by Bettina Bolzer Bowles, head of wardrobe for the show.
Nearly 1,500 costume pieces (transported in three 45-foot trucks) make their way on stage, Bowles says. She and her team of eight are in charge of making sure nothing gets lost and everything is cleaned and repaired in time for the next act.
And she'll do the same this weekend, when the Michael Jackson Immortal World Tour makes its way to Columbus for a two-day stretch, starting April 18. Get your ticket here.
Keeping track of all those pieces and parts makes for a long day-11 to 15 hours sometimes, Bowles says.
But it's all down to a science.
"We have a very multifunctional team," she says. "Everybody is really good at jumping in for other people and knowing more than their own tract, and that's why it's really fun to work with this team."
So how do the costumes evoke the Michael Jackson spirit? They do so quite directly-with shoulder pads in Smooth Criminal, soldier costumes in They Don't Care About us and even a few items directly from Jackson's Neverland Ranch.
But Bowles' favorite costume is a little more symbolic.
"I have many favorites," she says. "But I would say the bats."
The bats are made of a lightweight paper, and they're easy to maintain. Originally created just for effect, these costumes are now part of a full dance routine.
When asked which costumes give her the most trouble, Bowles says there really aren't any.
"They change it if it's too challenging," she says. "We had a costume in the beginning that's not in the show anymore, and we had a lot of trouble maintaining it because the little plastic plates on it were very easy to break, so we right away changed that out to a new version using carbon fiber."
Cirque du Soleil's costume workshop in Montreal is always in contact with the different shows, developing new and better ways to outfit the performers.
"It's a creative environment," she says. "If something's not perfect, we're going to improve it. That's the spirit."
-Taylor Starek, @taylorstarek