Among rows of sequin-trimmed shirts and petite-sized dresses adorned with full tulle skirts, John Tuttle, a former dancer with the Sacramento Ballet in the 1970s and ‘80s, reminisced about his time on stage.
Tuttle is retired from dancing but still works as a facilities manager for the ballet company. On Saturday morning, he stopped to look at a worn white jacket made of heavy material once used for the Sacramento Ballet’s rendition of the Russian Dance in “The Nutcracker,” checking to see if his name was scribbled inside.
“I knew most of the people that wore these costumes,” he said. “Some of them are still around, some are gone.”
Tuttle was joined by a few dozen people at a costume sale hosted by the Sacramento Ballet at the E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts in midtown, where the dance company operates.
The sale was intended to make room at the ballet’s warehouse at the McClellan Business Park, which spans somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 square feet and houses costumes and stage props, some dating back several decades, said Jack McDowell, the ballet’s production manager. The space is shared with the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera.
“We’re trying to make a little bit of money but we also don’t want to see these (costumes) disposed of,” he said. “We want to put back a little bit of this back into the community.”
The event was the first time the company has conducted such a sale in at least 30 years, McDowell said. With the warehouse “filled to the brim” and Halloween around the corner, the sale made sense, he said.
The Sacramento Ballet has fallen on hard times in recent years. In 2015, more than 20 dancers were laid off weeks before the season ended because the organization did not have enough money to cover the remaining salaries for the company’s dancers and staff, ballet officials told The Sacramento Bee at the time.
Earlier this year, the ballet company’s board of directors announced it would seek to replace artistic directors Ron Cunningham and Carinne Binda after 30 seasons with the organization. In response to the board’s decision, the pair described a divide between their vision of maintaining high artistic standards and the board’s need to “operate within its means” in a letter to The Bee. They cited decreased marketing budgets and a downturn of resources in recent years.
On Saturday, curious neighbors, parents searching for unique Halloween costumes with their children and those helping with theater productions at local schools were among the people who shuffled through racks of costumes on display outside of the midtown studio. Inside a nearby room, hoop skirts up to about 4 feet wide, wine glasses and other props were also sold at discounted prices.
Erica Winn, a Sacramento resident, said she was looking for fun dress-up clothes for her 16-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter.
“It’s a great use of resources,” she said of the sale. “The Sacramento Ballet is a fantastic organization that deserves the support of the community.”