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11 Apr

Esteban Cortázar Designs Costumes for Miami Ballet

Approaching 40, Esteban Cortázar has come full circle. South Beach’s famed wunderkind who hobnobbed with Gianni Versace, Madonna and ’90s supermodels is rediscovering his roots after spending 16 years in Paris. Living amongst Latest York, his native Colombia and South Beach, he’s designing costumes for Miami City Ballet’s “Sentimiento,” a commissioned work choreographed by Durante Verzola that premieres at Miami’s Arsht Center on Friday inside the “Fresh & Fierce” program.

“I’m a beach boy at heart,” said Cortázar of an environment that brings him happiness and inspires his creativity. “I used to have an insecurity about Miami, but it surely seems like less of a town now and more of a city with some weight to it. I would like to be a part of this cultural moment.”

Though it isn’t his first time collaborating with the dance world, the experience differs from his foray with Latest York City Ballet in 2021. As an alternative of going into it blind, as was the case with NYCB under pandemic circumstances, he was in a position to see the choreography and take heed to Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona’s rating beforehand. Born of nostalgia, costumes juxtapose Cortázar’s early exposure to Art Deco architecture, drag queens and ballroom dancing, an obsession cultivated through movies and TV shows.

Sketches of Esteban Cortázar’s costume designs for Miami Ballet.


“I’ve at all times desired to be on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and can be in it to win it,” he said, showing bubblegum pink costumes adorned with crystal swirls and ostrich feathers, which he calls his two flamingos. “A Latest York seamstress who makes ballroom gowns actually began them.”

Cortázar appreciates how Verzola gives a classical art form an edge and originality, so he’s in a position to design with many dance references in mind — Havana showgirls, tango, jazz, Latin, a bit sexy and the waltz. He produced an exclusive graphic print with Art Deco flourishes, lemons and nude figures like those in Henri Matisse’s “The Dance” for ballerinas’ quilted bodices and in a large-scale version for male dancers.

“It’s probably the most South Beach look. I’d like to make a [fashion] piece with it,” he said of the leftover printed organza. “The dancers are also having a lot fun. They run out to point out off their costumes and Instagram them behind our backs.”

Sketches of Esteban Cortázar’s costume designs for Miami Ballet.

Sketches of Esteban Cortázar’s costume designs for Miami Ballet.


Cortázar finds the technique of costuming 16 dancers far less stressful in comparison with designing runway collections. Without the pressure to sell, his only worries are function and fit. Variations of affection stories, the work begins with an explosion of color, including an especially flouncy tutu with jelly bean-colored trim that bursts from the rear and a stretch mesh top screen-printed with blue palm trees and hot pink gulls, and slowly transitions to black and white with burnt coque feathers for extra glamour. Watching a dress rehearsal, he leans over to whisper that it’s the corporate’s first-ever romantic pas de deux with two men. A more mature, all grown up Cortázar gets emotional in the course of the final scene’s pas de deux of one other couple breaking up — the last dance.

“The title ‘Sentimiento’ says all of it. It means ‘feeling.’”

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