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Fiber Optic Tutu

Inspired by the combination of nature and technology, the costumes for the Waltz of the Flowers performed by the Brooklyn Ballet in their production of the Brooklyn Nutcracker, unfurl like a secret garden. The tutu’s combine a traditional ballet silhouette with lights and are constructed with fiber optics sewn onto layers of hand dyed fabrics. The costumes of the Garden Sprites and demi-soloists costumes surprise with hidden screen printed art that reveals itself under UV light. The garden comes to life with the glistening Dew Drop adorned with laser cut flowers in mylar and Swarovski crystals.

What we did

  • Research & concept creation
  • Design
  • Fabric experimentation & development
  • Costume creation
  • Rehearsal and performance support

Clients / Collaborators

Fiber Optic Tutu in Flight Photo by C. S. Muncy
Fiber Optic Tutu at Brooklyn Museum

Technology Explained

Fiber optics are transparent, flexible strands made from plastic or glass and are most often used for transmitting light between the two ends. They are most often used in fiber-optic communications where transmissions can be made over long distances at higher bandwidths than wire cables. Fiber optics are also used in illumination and are wrapped or bundled to carry images and even natural light. For this project, we used a grouping of fiber optic paired with high intensity programmable LED lights to illuminate ballet tutus. Light “escapes” from the fibers when they are bent and woven around the body and at the ends there each individual fiber is cut to twinkle in the tulle of the tutu’s skirts.

The Tutu in Pirouette

Watch the making of C.S Muncy's stop motion photograph as the Brooklyn Ballet dancer spins in the rotunda of the Brooklyn Museum.

Project Development

The multi-layered tutus are constructed using age-old traditional techniques using a multi-pieced foundations with boning, covered with a custom-fit and hand-dyed top plates. The tulle skirt is attached to the foundation and then over it all the fiber optic strands are hand sewn to the costume. Hidden under the skirt on the dancer’s lower back are the LED “wands” that bring the costumes to life. Circuit boards that control the LED lights are programmed to the exact blue green color of the dances color palette.