The Incredible Costumes of "The Most Incredible Thing"

Sterling Hyltin as The Princess in The Most Incredible Thing. Photo by Nina Westervelt for WWD.

New York City Ballet resident choreographer Justin Peck has balletomanes everywhere on the edge of their seat, impatiently awaiting the premiere of his first narrative work, The Most Incredible Thing. Based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, the ballet will feature dozens of NYCB dancers and students from SAB (the cast numbers more than 50!).

Until now, we've only had tantalizing peeks at the costumes, with designer Marcel Dzama and Peck posting a few shots on Instagram. And we haven't heard the music at all. But with the release of NYCB's The Most Incredible Thing trailer, we finally have a chance to see some of Dzama's wildly original designs in action, worn by Peck's usual muses as they dance to music by composer Bryce Dessner (of the band The National).


The trailer looks like something Wes Anderson might direct, which bodes well for a fairytale full of both wonder and destruction. Peck's aesthetic and vision have only grown more clear as he becomes more experienced, and it's exciting to think about how his stylistic preferences will play out on such a grand scale. Fingers crossed that this ballet is full of the heart and excitement that abound in his most successful works.

Tiler Peck as The Cuckoo in The Most Incredible Thing (photo by Nina Westervelt for WWD)

If you're curious how these outrageously ornate costumes came to life, check out this Women's Wear Daily interview with Dzama. Famous for his macabre sketches and masks, Dzama doesn't seem like an obvious choice as the designer of a ballet. But with the help of NYCB's costume shop, Dzama's ideas have ended up coming to life. They're reminiscent of work by Maurice Sendak—and keep in mind that the beloved picture book author/illustrator did indeed create the designs for Pacific Northwest Ballet's former version of The Nutcracker. Maybe the minds of artists in touch with their inner child are perfect for creating a fantastical world onstage.

Ballet Careers
Gray Davis with wife, ABT soloist Cassandra Trenary, after his graduation from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Courtesy Trenary.

When Gray Davis retired from American Ballet Theatre in July of 2018, he moved home to South Carolina, unsure of what would come next. Last month, just over a year later, Davis graduated from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Today, he's working as a deputy for the Abbeville County Sheriff's Office.

Though Davis danced in ABT's corps for 11 years and is married to soloist Cassandra Trenary, to many he's best known for saving the life of a man who was pushed onto the subway tracks in New York City in 2017. The heroic effort earned him the New York State Liberty Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by a member of the New York State Senate. We caught up with Davis to hear about how the split second decision he made in the subway affected the course of his life, what it's been like starting a second career and what he sees as the similarities between ballet and law enforcement.

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Sponsored by BLOCH
Courtesy BLOCH

Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

We dug into the details of Stretch Pointe's most game-changing features:

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Ballet Stars
Megan Amanda Ehrlich, Courtesy LEAP Program

Claire Sheridan wanted to change the status quo. Leading up to the 1990s, she recalls, "there was a 'shut up and dance' mind-set," and as the founder of the dance program at St. Mary's College of California and a longtime teacher in professional companies, she had seen too many dancers retire with no plan for a successful career transition. "At that time, if you thought about education and the future," she says, "you were not a committed dancer. I wanted to fight that."

With the support of St. Mary's, Sheridan developed the Liberal Education for Arts Professionals program, or LEAP, an innovative liberal-arts bachelor's degree program designed especially for professional dancers. She first presented her idea to executives at San Francisco Ballet. "Kudos to that company, because they said, 'This is great,'" she says. "Eleven of the first 18 dancers who started in August 1999 were from SFB."

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Ballet Training
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I'm a college freshman, and my dance program isn't challenging enough. We only have ballet three times a week and a few hours of modern, and my classmates aren't as dedicated as I am. There's a small dance company nearby, where I was hoping to take extra classes, but I don't have a car. I want to transfer, but I feel like I won't be in good enough shape for auditions. —Tara

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