Glitter Alert! Inside the Costume Closet at Priscilla and Dana’s School of Dance
Teri Day & Dana McGuire
photos Zac Bauman
It’s a closet that would make any girl drool. Feisty feathers, sassy sequins, ta-da trim and frolicsome fringe for as far as the eye can see. At first glance, you may think you’ve entered the world of a mythical tribe of females who are obsessive-compulsive about wearing only items of clothing that glitter. But, no what you’re seeing is the costume “closet” of Priscilla and Dana’s School of Dance.
Dana McGuire, the co-owner of P&D along with her mother Priscilla, the "diva of dance" who started her career on “American Bandstand,” estimates that more than 50,000 costumes have been worn by their dancers in the studio’s five-decade history. Most of those costumes are designed by the teachers and then custom made.
Along the years, McGuire says there have been hits — a costume trimmed in actual currency and feather boas that lighted up. And some misses — a top that ended up looking like Madonna’s cone bra and a robot outfit that used actual dryer vents.
Teacher and choreographer, Teri Day, says costume design is tricky. “You need to accent the dance, not detract from it. You need to visualize the dance onstage and think how the costume can add to the choreography. Simple? Complex?
Day explains that dance costumes have evolved exponentially in the past 15 years to become an art form all their own. “Today most choreographers want a one-of-a-kind creation that matches their vision.”
Every fall to “share the joy” of the P&D costume experience, the studio holds a sale that attracts customers from all over the United States. At the “Costume Fest” thousands of custom-made costumes are sold to other studios as far away as Florida and to parents looking to find a one-of-kind solo outfits for their dancer. Each costume must pass inspection before it’s deemed worthy enough to enter the sale. Day says if the costume isn’t in pristine condition it’s not going on the rack.
One shopper compares the experience to running with the bulls in Pamplona. “When the doors to the sale open it’s a mad dash to those costume racks. There’s no bulls, but there are dance moms, so pretty much the same level of intensity.”
McGuire shares that a great costume doesn’t make a great dancer but adds that a costume can elevate the artistry and the performance.
“It’s all about helping our dancers achieve their best and the right costume can help make that happen.”
Priscilla and Dana’s School of Dance 50th anniversary recital is June 6 at 6:30 p.m. at Music Hall.