Meet the dancers behind Costume Gallery’s passionate team
Costume Gallery, a leading provider for high-quality dance costumes and accessories, has time and time again proven itself to be a company of innovation and exceptional style. One of the reasons so many dance studio owners, teachers and coaches prefer the company is its knowledge and understanding of the dance world. To its credit, many of the Costume Gallery staff are former (or current) dancers themselves!
Here we catch up with six members of Costume Gallery’s passionate team to learn all about their dance backgrounds and how they put their expertise to work in their individual positions.
Meet Maurya – the Creative Service Coordinator
Maurya started dancing young – at only three years old. Although she doesn’t remember her first dance class, she sweetly recalls her first performance: “I wore a purple and white tutu with a pillbox hat and silver ballet shoes. During the middle of the routine my grandmother came to the front of the stage to take a photo. I proceeded to stop dancing and walk to the end of the stage and ask her why she was out of her seat!”
She enjoyed over two decades of dancing before joining Costume Gallery, having trained in ballet, hip-hop and jazz the longest, but devoting 15 years to tap as well. “I danced at multiple studios because my father was in the Army and we moved around a lot,” she shares. Most of her training was completed at Greater Dover Dance Academy in Dover, PA, but she also danced for the Bloomsburg University Dance Ensemble and Bloomsburg University Competition Team for four years.
Now she performs as part of an NFL Dance team, having previously danced with the NBA Philadelphia 76ers Dancers. She said there’s something about a dance costume that is magical.
“The second you put a costume on it all feels real. The practice, the choreography – it all comes together and you feel complete. What girl doesn't love to dress up!” she exclaims.
Maurya uses her real-life dance experience everyday at Costume Gallery. “Since I am still an active dancer it helps me stay in touch with what's trending and what dancers are looking for – colors, styles, lengths. Working at Costume Gallery has allowed me to connect my love of dance and marketing into one world.”
Get to know Alexis - a Design Coordinator
Alexis started dancing at age five. She recalls her enthusiasm for practicing her first recital dance (which was set to the song "Love is Blue") and being “beyond excited” to don her costume and hit the stage.
“My first costume is my most memorable. It was really simple, a light blue tulle tutu with a black bodice and flower trim, but it was a tutu so I loved it. It made me feel confident and beautiful; like a princess, which is every little girl's dream. That costume definitely marked the beginning of my love for dance,” she shares.
From then till she was in her 20s, Alexis trained as a dancer in various techniques, including ballet, lyrical, jazz and tap. She attended Today's Dance Center in Medford, NJ and Jazz Unlimited in Marlton, NJ. In college, she joined the Drexel Dance Ensemble, where she continued dancing to further her training in modern, contemporary, hip-hop and more. Later she performed professionally as a member of the 2012 Reading Phillies Dance Team and the 2013 Philadelphia Soulmates.
“When I look back on my dance experience, I’m flooded with old memories and emotions,” she says. “I always find myself reliving that moment before I’d begin a performance; waiting anxiously in the wings, my hair done up and full makeup. An exciting costume would make my heart race as I performed the opening movements in my head.”
She continues, “I understand how amazing and empowering that moment is. So when I sit down to work, I strive to capture the exhilaration that moments like that bring, so I can share them with future generations of dancers.”
Presenting Danielle – a Customer Service Dazzler
It seems so long ago now that Danielle started dancing, as she was only age six. She said, “I remember going into the dance studio for the first time to pick up my friend from her dance class. I remember watching the girls dance and wishing I could do that. My mom told me I could not stop talking about it so she put me in my own dance class.”
While she doesn’t remember her first actual dance class, she does recall her first recital “like it was yesterday.” She shares, “I was so excited! Surprisingly I was not nervous at all. I loved being in that moment and performing on stage. I knew from that moment that I loved dance, and that dance would be a part of me for the rest of my life.”
Danielle trained in ballet, jazz, lyrical, hip-hop, modern and pointe, but tap was her real passion. She remembers always having tap solos.
“Now that I am older I still love tap and it is still one of my favorite styles of dance but I have grown to also love modern. I feel that modern is such a freeing style of dance. It is open to your own interpretation. I love that you can tell a story without any words, just your body, and still touch so many people in the audience.”
She’s trained at local studios as well as Camden County College and Stockton University. During college, she studied with Pillar Dance Company and Andrea Mychaels Dance Project, and she began teaching as well. Now she’s a substitute dance teacher for studios in the New Jersey and Philadelphia areas. Teaching has only furthered her love of costumes.
“My favorite costume is Costume Gallery’s Style 14552, ‘Without You.’ I used it for my high school pointe class and fell in love with the beauty of this costume. It was one of those moments when I wished I was in the dance so I could wear the costume. I honestly get even more excited than my kids do when it is costume time!”
For her work at Costume Gallery, Danielle is constantly pulling upon her dance background. When customers need assistance picking out or ordering their costumes, she can “envision” what they need. She also loves helping with events.
“This past year Costume Gallery started holding Open Houses. This is a chance for local studios that do not attend the UDMA shows to view our costume line one-on-one and be able to see the costumes on the models in person,” she explains. “This past season I worked with the models in helping them get the costumes on and making sure they have the best accessories to show off the costumes features. I was able to envision the type of dance I think the costume would go with and make the costume look its best on the model. I found this so exciting, to be able to hear our customers say, ‘Wow, I really like that” when they saw the costumes.”
Here’s Kim – a Designer
Kim, like all her predecessors, also broke into dance young, at age four. “My mother enrolled me in dance because I used to dance around the house all the time in her nightgowns,” she recalls.
Dancing till she was old enough to leave for college, Kim took tap, jazz, ballet, pointe, acro and even Hawaiian and Middle Eastern. She noted that there was “no such thing” as lyrical, contemporary or hip-hop when she grew up.
“I was part of a dance troupe called ‘The Rhythmettes’ at my studio,” she shared. “We were a kick line of dancers that were patterned after the style of the Rockettes at Radio City. We danced at many local events. My dream was to be a Rockette but I was not tall enough.”
Later she belonged to a dance club in college where she performed several times a year. But she said looking back that some of her favorite performances actually took place in a theater, not at her studio.
“Some of my favorite dance memories are from musical theater. I was the lead dancer in many musicals at a regional theater in my hometown. My favorite part was ‘Cassie’ in A Chorus Line. This was my lifelong dream part and I took voice coaching to audition for that role.”
Between kick line, theater, dance club and regular classes, Kim recalls many dance costumes. Her first were all animals – a bird, a lion and a skunk! Hilariously, she recalls that “the skunk costume had an attached baby bottle filled with powder that we sprayed at the end of the dance.” She has memories of her “wanting to wear something ‘pretty’, like a tutu.” On another occasion when dancing the Charleston, she enjoyed “long fringe skirts and lots of sequin trim.”
“As a designer in this industry for many years, my dance background gave me a head start,” she concludes. “It's easier to design with the understanding of how a dancer's body moves. I tend to design styles that I would personally love to wear if I were still a dancer.”
And check out Elizabeth – the Director of Marketing and Sales
Elizabeth, another youngster when she started, also trained in the primary techniques of ballet, jazz, modern, tap and character. But she soon discovered that her heart was especially set on ballet, which led her to dance with Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, Central PA Youth Ballet, Richmond Ballet, the Kirov Academy and eventually Point Park University.
She said, “I remember all of my costumes, but I think the best feeling I had was my first professional tutu. That made me feel like I was finally a ballerina.”
Now at Costume Gallery she identifies with the joy that comes with a new dance costume.
“Anytime a dancer puts on their costume and walks on stage for the first time, there’s a moment of sheer excitement. It is time for the hard work and practice to pay off,” she says. “The costume helps to bring the dance to life. The adrenaline you feel performing in a costume on the stage for an audience - it is an amazing feeling.”
She now pulls upon her heartfelt memories when overseeing marketing for Costume Gallery, specifically the creation and execution of the yearly catalog. She helps find dancers with strong technique across all genres that “enhance the costumes.”
Elizabeth concludes, “It is important to me that when a teacher sees a costume they are inspired and excited.”
Guest Contributor: Chelsea Thomas of Dance Informa