Meet the designer behind ‘Cassandra’ costumes | Arts and Theater







Costume fitting of Cassandra dress

Dancer Stormy Gaylord is fitted for the Priestess Cassandra costume, designed by David Quinn, by artistic director Lisa Thurrell at Kanopy Dance. The dress is one of three Cassandras to be showcased in a Kanopy Dance performance next weekend at the Overture Center. 




David Quinn left Wisconsin as a teenager years ago to pursue a career in fashion design in New York. Still, audiences for the Madison-based modern dance company Kanopy Dance know his work well.

Quinn has been designing costumes for Kanopy dancers for some two decades. His latest creations will be on stage in “Cassandra’s Cry,” one of the featured pieces in Kanopy’s upcoming dance concert “Kanopy Redux: No Limits” in the Overture Center’s Promenade Hall.







Fashion designer David Quinn

Quinn




For next weekend’s “Cassandra’s Cry” — choreographed by Kanopy co-artistic director Lisa Thurrell to the music of “Closing” and “Facades” by Philip Glass — Quinn had to create dance costumes for three Cassandras, each portraying the character at a different stage of her life.







Sketch for Cassandra  in green

Costume designer David Quinn created this sketch for “Cassandra’s Cry,” to be performed next weekend by Kanopy Dance Company.




But while he often travels to Madison for costume fittings for Kanopy’s biggest shows, this time the designer had to work long distance — even supervising fittings on FaceTime and relying on overnight delivery to send costume pieces back and forth between New York and Madison.

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“Cassandra’s Cry” is based on the story of the Trojan priestess Cassandra, who was given the gift of prophecy by the god Apollo. But when Cassandra refused Apollo’s physical advances, he cursed her so that no one would ever believe her.







Lisa Thurrell fits sleeve on dancer's leotard by David Quinn

Kanopy Dance co-artistic director Lisa Thurrell fits Stormy Gaylord for the Priestess Cassandra costume, designed by David Quinn.




Thurrell calls the dance piece “very appropriate for our times” — a story about “those crying out truth amongst fake truths to try to save us from ourselves.”







Costumes (not by David Quinn) for "Views from a Fleeting World"

In costumes designed by Karen Young, Kanopy Dance Company dancers — from left, Brad Orego, Solomon Bowser and Miye Bishop — demonstrate the movement in Rioult’s red accordion “Samurai” skirt. The costumes will be used in “Views from a Fleeting World” in a Kanopy performance next weekend.




Thurrell, who is co-artistic director of Kanopy Dance along with her husband, Robert Cleary, first connected with Quinn through her sister Ede Thurrell, a New York-based dancer. Kanopy’s Thurrell calls Quinn “the most talented designer we know of.”

“He has a unique vision, style, does research for inspiration (and) has an exceptional eye for color and pattern,” Lisa Thurrell said.







Stormy Gaylord trying out costume by David Quinn

Kanopy Dance’s Stormy Gaylord tries out the Priestess Cassandra costume, designed by David Quinn.




“He understands what dancers and the choreographer need to reveal — the physical look and what the dancers need, to be able to move well and be beautiful doing it.”

Theater, burlesque, dance and more

Quinn grew up in the tiny Wisconsin town of Conover, north of Eagle River and near the Michigan border.







Stormy Gaylord trying skirt of David Quinn costume

Stormy Gaylord tries out movements in the Priestess Cassandra costume, designed by David Quinn.




“I’ve been sewing and designing since my earliest memories,” he said. “I’ve done hand sewing since I was about 5.”







Lisa Thurrell fits costume on dancer

Kanopy Dance co-artistic director Lisa Thurrell fits dancer Stormy Gaylord for the Priestess Cassandra costume, designed by David Quinn, in preparation for an upcoming performance. 




The occasional play in a theater, plus award shows like the Oscars and variety TV shows such as “Sonny and Cher,” fed young Quinn’s imagination. Watching shows like those on the two broadcast TV stations he got at home “was the closest thing I had to that kind of creativity and a little bit of glamour,” he said. “It was all very theatrical. So for me, theater and fashion have always been intertwined.”







"Puppetmaster" by David Quinn

Designer David Quinn designed the “Puppetmaster” for a previous Kanopy Dance performance. 




Quinn left Wisconsin to attend high school at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Interlochen, Michigan, where he studied technical theater with an emphasis on costume design. After high school he went directly to New York to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology.







Cassandra sketch in black

Costume designer David Quinn created this sketch for “Cassandra’s Cry,” to be performed next weekend by Kanopy Dance Company.




“I had friends who were dancers at Interlochen who came to New York at the same time,” he recalled. “Through them I met dancers who came there to go to Juilliard or NYU. So I’ve always been around dancers.”

Today, Quinn does a broad range of work for theater and the dance stage, plus costumes for cabaret and burlesque performers and fashions for private clients. The singer/actor/comedian Bridget Everett made a recent appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” in a Quinn original.







Cassandra sketch with layered skirt

Costume designer David Quinn created this sketch for “Cassandra’s Cry,” to be performed next weekend by Kanopy Dance Company.




With private clients, “Some want shirts and blouses,” Quinn said. “Some want special occasion dresses or special event gowns. So I do all of that, and I’m usually doing it all at the same time, so it’s pretty chaotic.”

Employing a staff of one to five, depending on workload, Quinn works out of his New York studio, which also builds costumes for other designers.







Red costume from "Adam and Steve"

Costume designer David Quinn created this sketch for a previous Kanopy Dance Company performance titled “Adam and Steve.” 




For “Cassandra’s Cry,” Quinn took inspiration from the latest Schiaparelli couture collection, “where they used a lot of stark black with gold accents or details.” Working closely with the choreographer to capture the storytelling and spirit of the piece, Quinn came up with three designs for Cassandra at different points in her life.







Costumes by Karen Young

Kanopy dancers, from left, Solomon Bowser, Miye Bishop and Brad Orego try out their movements in the costumes designed by Karen Young to be used in a Kanopy Dance performance next weekend.




“Cassandra’s Cry” will be performed along with “Views of the Fleeting World” by guest director Pascal Rioult, a former principal dancer for the Martha Graham Dance Company. Rioult’s “Views” intertwines parallels in Bach’s music and Asian culture. Costumes for “Views” were designed by Karen Young.

As for Quinn, “I love working with Kanopy,” he said.







Green costume from 'Adam and Steve'

Costume designer David Quinn created this sketch for a previous Kanopy Dance Company work titled “Adam and Steve.” 




“And I love that I still have work that I create in Wisconsin, and that supports what Kanopy does to bring contemporary dance to the Midwest,” he said. “I’m always happy to be a part of that.”