Designing Dance – The Dyeing Room

by Jenny Butler
Monday 25th October 2010

Today we welcome The Australian Ballet who are sharing a very special Designing Dance series! Over the coming 5 days The Australian Ballet are opening their doors & showing us some super exclusive behind the scenes action from their design departments. Enjoy! – Jenny x

Photo by Melbourne-based editorial photographer Thomas Dallas Watson

I’m not the only one at The Australian Ballet who’s intrigued by the room of white tiles, metal vats, and rows upon rows of vibrant-coloured bottles with names like Alfalfa, Coral, Galah and Wombat.  Ask anyone here about the dyeing room and they want to know more; and not because of its sinister-sounding name!

Photo by Thomas Dallas Watson

It’s in this room that the fabrics for The Australian Ballet’s many costumes are dyed, painted or airbrushed into any number of shades and patterns. And we’re lucky to have master dyer Lynn Munro’s expertise in these areas.

The process almost always starts with the costume designer’s brief but after that it rarely follows the same path. Though the wardrobe department always tries to find the perfect fabric, a large amount of what is bought has to be dyed or altered in some way.

Photo by Thomas Dallas Watson

WOW! An absolutely stunning dress as seen in The Silver Rose. Photo by David Kelly

I love the fiery orange and red dress worn by the Marschallin in Graeme Murphy’s The Silver Rose. Lynn coloured the originally white fabric with two fibre-specific dyes which attached to the silk backing and the rayon pile respectively.

Madame Butterfly photos by Paul Empson

Most of the kimonos for Stanton Welch’s Madame Butterfly were dyed using a similar technique. Different lots of one type of fabric – mattress ticking sourced from a mattress manufacturer; full points for creative thinking by our buyer! – were dyed to create many different kimonos.

Photo by Thomas Dallas Watson

But it’s not just fabrics that Lynn changes, chameleon-like, from one shade to another. Occasionally pairs of pale pink pointe shoes are hand-painted black or a bright hue. The men’s canvas shoes require painting for most ballets to match the tights, socks or trousers. And once a custom-colour is mixed, a bottle ends up on the shelf of vibrant-coloured bottles, somewhere between ‘Molto Vivace Apprentice Cupid shoe paint’ and ‘La Fille Mal Garde chicken feet’.

– Fiona Howatt, The Australian Ballet

by Jenny Butler
Monday 25th October 2010


  • alex sunday 6 years ago

    i love the shots of the paint jars – and the descriptions on the labels – “apprentice cupid”! how sweet. this is going to be an interesting week. :)

  • So awesome, I can’t wait for the rest of the posts! I love the dye room, it’s so fancy and sciency!

  • Sharyn Constable 6 years ago

    Every piece of creating a ballet is intriguing – i love this and wish i had my own dying room.
    It also demonstrates the various levels of artistry needed to create a whole collaboration!
    Fantastic! Looking forward to the entire series.

  • Minnie. 6 years ago

    WOW! I would love my own dye room! Different coloured pointe shoes would be amazing! Can’t wait for more posts! :)

  • JamyK 6 years ago

    What a cute piece on an area that most of us hardly get to see! How amazing for the dancers to get a personalised and custom dyed costumes… Look forward to seeing more Australian Ballet related posts!

  • swellsy 6 years ago

    Thank you for the guest blog this week. I am in awe of the talent behind the scenes of the Australian ballet. I wish the wider public could see this wonder too.

  • Hila 6 years ago

    gosh, what an elaborate, but beautiful, process.

  • Emily 6 years ago

    How clever – mattress ticking! Amazing colours and love the descriptions on the dye!

  • Carol 6 years ago

    This is an Aladdin’s cave! Imaginative and beautiful. Creating so much out of the simplest of materials.

  • Shirley 6 years ago

    I saw the stove so I assume at least some of the dyes are used with heat.Do you ever use cold water dyes and do you ever have problems with dyes leaching onto tights or joining with the sweat on dancer’s bodies? Can the costumes be washed after dyeing?Sorry I guess you’re not really inviting questions!

  • This is a topic that’s near to my heart… Take care!
    Exactly where are your contact details though?

    Also visit my page :: cherry kitchen cabinets (http://kitchenupd320.livejournal.com/)

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