San Diego Civic Youth Ballet: Recycling, Reusing & Redesigning Costumes

Rubi BaricuatroBalboa Park Cultural Partnership, Sustainability Program

San Diego Civic Youth Ballet has been the resident classic ballet school in Balboa Park for over 70 years, providing high-quality, affordable, year-round training in the Casa del Prado studios for students ages 4 to adult. In addition, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet is able to provide a special arts and culture opportunity to over 600 students in San Diego public schools through their thriving Outreach Program. One of the factors that helps make their ballet training affordable and accessible to many student dancers is the reuse of the majority of costumes used in their productions throughout the year at the Casa del Prado Theater.

In comparison to other ballet companies, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet can save dancers and families over $27,000 in just one production from reusing costumes! As mentioned by Ira Bauer-Spector, Marketing Manager at San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, “Who needs to keep a costume in their closet that they are going to outgrow almost immediately? Not only is [reusing costumes] cost-effective and good for the environment, but it sometimes can add extra meaning and significance to a performer when they are able to dance wearing the same costume as a dancer they admired in the past.” Some costumes have been reused for over 10 years, but Costume Mistress and Costume Loft Coordinator, Tammy Molenaar, keeps them looking breathtaking. In the annual production of The Nutcracker, about 75% of the costumes are reused. Over the course of the year, with four major productions, only 25% of new materials are acquired. Sets and props are also reused and repurposed for these productions.

Tammy Molenaar, has created and tailored hundreds of costumes, with guidance from Artistic Director, Danika Pramik-Holdaway, for almost 10 years. She singlehandedly recreates and customizes costumes for productions by changing some embellishments. In reducing the amount of costumes bought and used during productions, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet is not only helping dancers and families save money, but they also are reducing their impact on environmental resources. The production of textiles is exhaustive on resources like land, water and energy, produces greenhouse gasses throughout the manufacturing and transportation process, and is a large contributor of pollution in waterways. Therefore, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet’s recycle, reuse and reduce efforts, not only have a direct positive impact to local dancers and our local landfills, but globally as well.

San Diego Civic Youth Ballet demonstrates how an organization can simultaneously streamline their operations while saving money and minimizing their environmental impact. They also champion sustainability in the building in which their office and studios are located. They have shown building and operational efficiency in energy, water, and green purchase practices earning them a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification.

We are proud to have San Diego Civic Youth Ballet amongst the ranks of thoughtful and environmentally conscious arts and culture organizations in Balboa Park who seek to keep their programs available for future generations without compromising our environment.