Ballet West’s main costume designer is retiring after 31 years

(Photo courtesy of Ballet West) David Heuvel, director of costume production for Ballet West, works on a costume for a sugar-plum fairy in the troupe's production of "The Nutcracker" in 2017. Ballet West announced on Aug. 5, 2020, that Heuvel is retiring after 41 years with the company.

The man responsible for dressing Ballet West’s dancers, from the tutus for “Swan Lake” to the Sugar Plum Fairy’s wings, is retiring after working for 31 years with the company.

David Heuvel, director of costume production, will retire from day-to-day management of Ballet West’s costume shop, the troupe announced Wednesday. As his final project, Heuvel will refurbish and redesign the costumes for the revival of Michael Smuin’s “Romeo and Juliet,” which Ballet West will perform in February.

“David’s vision is so broad that it is hard to believe he is only one person,” Adam Sklute, Ballet West’s artistic director, said in a statement. “David has designed and produced an astonishing and diverse array of costumes for the Ballet West stage and around the globe. His work ranges from the historically accurate to sleek abstract creations, to charming and elaborate flights of fancy.”

Sklute said Heuvel will continue to create costumes for Ballet West on a project-by-project basis, but “I will miss him as a day-to-day collaborator and friend.”

Huevel started his career in his home country, South Africa, working for Performing Arts Council Transvaal (PACT), the state-run arts organization there. He rose through the ranks to become director of PACT Ballet’s costume shop.

In 1979, Sklute’s predecessor, David Marks, invited Heuvel to lead Ballet West’s fledgling costume shop. Heuvel’s work was one reason Ballet West’s reputation grew from a regional unit to an internationally known ballet company.

Michael Scolamiero, Ballet West’s executive director, called its costume shop “unparalleled” under Heuvel’s direction. “He is a treasure not just to ballet, but recognized around the world for his beautiful designs and craftsmanship.”

He took a 10-year break from Ballet West, moving to Portland, Ore., and designing and building costumes for ballet troupes in France, Canada, Singapore and across the United States.

Costumes Heuvel designed for Ballet West’s production of “Swan Lake” once were rented out to singer Taylor Swift. She and a group of ballerinas wore the tutus in the video for the 2014 hit “Shake It Off.” “This is definitely my favorite costume of the shoot,” Swift said in a behind-the-scenes promotional video for the single.

In 2017, Heuvel led the $3 million redesign of the 180 costumes for Ballet West’s signature holiday work, “The Nutcracker.” It was the third time Heuvel had redesigned costumes for “The Nutcracker,” but the first without the supervision of the troupe’s founder, Willam Christensen, known to all as “Mr. C.”

“I thought about Mr. C this time around,” Heuvel said in 2017. “I tried to stay true to his vision while enhancing them with a lofty amount of fairy-tale details.” Heuvel received the Governor’s Artist Award from Utah Gov. Gary Herbert for his efforts.

In 2017, Huevel also was naturalized as a U.S. citizen. “Before, Utah was my ‘adopted home.’ Now, I just call it home,” he said at the time. “This state has embraced me, and I have been blessed to live in a place that truly values its arts — and artists.”

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