Feature Profile

Behind The Scenes At the Boston Ballet

Fashion Alums Work their Magic

Samantha Marquis '11 and Erica Desautels '09 in the Boston Ballet Costume Shop.

Fluffy tutus, glittering jewels, sparkling tiaras - these are the underpinnings of a young girl's ballet dream.

Lasell Fashion Design alums Erica Desautels '09 and Samantha Marquis '11 bring these visions to life every day through the costumes of the Sugar Plum Fairy or Don Quixote for the Boston Ballet, celebrating its 50th anniversary this season.

As a craftsperson and stitcher, respectively in the Boston Ballet Costume Shop, Desautels and Marquis have quickly transferred their creative skills - honed at Lasell - to many of the company's high profile costumes, headpieces and accessories.

"As a freshman I saw The Nutcracker; I was so dazzled by the costumes, that I knew I had to work with them before graduating," says Desautels, who interned with the Boston Ballet costume shop the summer before her senior year.

Fast-forward to 2011, after stints working on costumes for the Santa Fe Opera and Disney, Desautels returned to Boston to become a crafts assistant with the Boston Ballet, at its headquarters in Boston's South End.

A similar fascination with The Nutcracker attracted Marquis.

"I danced for a long time as a child, and it was always a tradition to see The Nutcracker, so I was very excited at the prospect that I could work there," says Marquis, who grew up in Salem, NH and interned at the Boston Ballet before landing a job as a stitcher.

Now the pair work a few feet from each other among the corsets, tulle and satin.

Desautels, as the number-two crafts and dye artisan, helps develop prototypes for items like tiaras, then creates a pattern for the shape and a layout for the jewels. Her workspace at any given time may be covered in sequins, feathers or wires as she hand-crafts each headpiece.

As a stitcher, Marquis' job involves creating tutus, heat-setting jewels, cutting fabrics and assisting with fittings. Her most high-profile project to date was the creation of Clara's party dress for last season's The Nutcracker.

"I never expected to end up making costumes, but I am so happy that I did," says Marquis, who as a student tried several fashion-related jobs from curatorial research to eco-friendly fashion and menswear. "You never know if you'll like something unless you try it. So anytime someone offers something to you, seize it."

Desautels, a native of Shelton, CT, also relishes her Boston Ballet experience. Last season, she jumped at the opportunity to work as a wardrobe assistant on The Sleeping Beauty - navigating quick changes backstage. She especially loves the chance to show her craftsmanship by creating intricate headpieces for the dancers.

"I am really devoted to theater; I think it is my true calling. My work at Lasell was very focused on craftsmanship and art, so I think that theatre is a great place for me," she tells Leaves.

Preparation for these positions originated, they say, with the care and nurturing provided by their Fashion professors at Lasell.

"My most valuable lesson was to ask questions. I tried to squeeze as much knowledge and experience out of the Fashion program at Lasell as I could, and was successful because I wasn't afraid to ask," adds Marquis.

Desautels believes that part of the responsibility for success falls on the student taking advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.

"For me, the most important part of interning is using the time to make connections and network because this is what will get you jobs after you graduate," Desautels says. "Then work, get an apartment, and work some more until you are doing what you want to do."




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