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Holly Hynes - Behind the Scenes

Holly Hynes - Behind the Scenes
Holly's Story - Behind the Scenes

Holly's Story - Behind the Scenes

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Holly Hynes

Holly Hynes is an award-winning costume designer with over 250 ballets to her credit, including more than 70 at New York City Ballet. Ms. Hynes’ designs are also on view in companies around the world, including: American Ballet Theatre; The Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, Russia; National Ballet of Canada; La Scala Ballet in Milan, Italy; The Kirov Ballet in Saint Petersburg, Russia; The Royal Ballet in London; Ballet de l'Opéra National de Paris, The Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen; Bulgarian State Ballet in Sofia, Bulgaria, Miami City Ballet; Koninklijk Ballet van Vlaanderen in Antwerp, Belgium; San Francisco Ballet; Houston Ballet; Colorado Ballet in Denver, Colorado; Den Norske Ballet in Oslo, Norway; Finnish National; BalletMet in Columbus, Ohio; Pennsylvania Ballet in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Ballet Vancouver, Canada; Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Canada; American Repertory Ballet in Princeton, New Jersey; Pacific Northwest Ballet, Seattle, Washington; Atlanta Ballet, Georgia; Nashville Ballet, Tennessee; Ballet Pacifica, California; Dance Galaxy, New York; Joffrey Ballet in Chicago, Illinois; and The Suzanne Farrell Ballet at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, where she served as the resident costume designer for 19 years.

Of her acclaimed work at ABT, and that of other world-class designers and artists, writer Mario R. Mercado wrote, "Stage pictures-vivid and memorable-have captured the public's imagination: the big, western sky by Oliver Smith for Rodeo, Christian Lacroix's riotous colors in Gaîté Parisienne, the painterly decor of Pier Luigi Samaritani for La Bayedère, Santo Loquasto's bowlers and crush velvets in Push Comes to Shove, painter David Salle's provocative postmodern tableaux for The Mollino Room, and Holly Hynes' fluid white silks for Ratmansky's Seven Sonatas."


Ms. Hynes was commissioned to design a new Nutcracker for the Colorado Ballet by Artistic Director Gil Boggs in December 2019. She swiftly began work on the designs, but a global pandemic would unfold that March, and close theaters, crippling the New York City costume industry. The company postponed the premiere by one year, allowing Ms. Hynes time to pivot and plan a new approach. At the height of the quarantine, she contacted several shops in New York and around the country, many of which were struggling financially. She provided them with needed work and collaborated to find a new way to produce costumes in this challenging new reality. Her courageous masked assistant would swatch over 1000 fabrics, the shops would deliver work to their drapers’, stitchers’, and finishers’ homes; fittings would be done on Zoom with local stand-in fit models, and Ms. Hynes would not see the finished costumes until her visit to Colorado in June 2021. Thanks to this project, many shops survived, adopted a new way of working, and the ballet premiered to rave reviews in November 2021.


For 21 years, Hynes served as the Director of Costumes for the New York City Ballet. Recognized as a leading authority in the reproduction of important historical ballet works, her expertise enables her to direct the accurate recreation of original designs for Balanchine and Robbins ballets. Hynes has assisted many companies both in the U.S. and abroad, including the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen, Denmark; Ballet de l'Opéra National de Paris, France; Théâtre du Capitole, Toulouse, France; The Bavarian State Ballet, Munich, Germany; The Cincinnati Ballet, Ohio; San Francisco Ballet, California; The Birmingham Royal Ballet, Birmingham, England; The Royal Ballet, London, England; Miami City Ballet, Florida; La Scala Theatre Ballet, Milan, Italy; Dutch National Ballet, Amsterdam; Hamburg Ballet, Germany; Staatsballett Berlin, Germany; Sempperoper Dresden in Germany and the Mariinsky Ballet, Saint Petersburg, Russia.


Hynes’ theatrical designs include two Broadway productions at Circle in the Square Theatre: On Borrowed Time, directed by George C. Scott, and George Bernard Shaw’s Getting Married, as well as a dozen plays and musicals at the off-Broadway York Theatre. Her opera designs include La Gioconda at The Metropolitan Opera in New York City, featured in Christopher Wheeldon’s "Dance of the Hours"; and The Music Master, with conductor Gerard Schwarz.


Ms. Hynes received the 2018 Theater Development Fund/Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award at the Edison Ballroom in New York City, on April 20, 2018. Prima Ballerina Wendy Whelan presented Ms. Hynes with the honor and remarked, "She always designs masterfully for each project as a whole, but it's of equal importance to her that she design to honor and empower the performers themselves. The distinct love-letter nature of Holly's work allows the essence of the dancer to live on forever...For this, we are forever grateful to you, Holly. You are truly a dancer's designer." In accepting the award, after thanking the many choreographers, makers, technicians, and assistants with whom she has worked over the years, Ms. Hynes emphasized the importance of mentoring. She said, "I can't stress enough the importance of mentoring and the importance of sharing your knowledge. Don't hold it in. Don't be afraid somebody is going to steal your idea. We have to share everything we know because the next generation is going to keep us alive in what they do."


Four of her costume renderings remain part of the permanent collection of the Theatre Wing of the Museum of the City of New York. She has exhibited renderings and watercolors in two gallery shows at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and has had six of her costumes featured on covers of the 1994-95 New York State Theater Playbills, also at Lincoln Center. Hynes’ designs for six miniature ballerina dolls were featured in the 1996 Christmas decorations at the White House and will remain in the permanent collection of the President William Jefferson Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1997, she was honored with a one-woman show of her costumes, sketches, and photographs at the Marvin Cone Galleries, at Coe College, her alma mater, located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. From 2008 to 2009, three of her costumes for dance were featured in “CURTAIN CALL: Celebrating a Century of Women Designing for Live Performance,” an exhibition shown at the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts, New York, NY.


Ms. Hynes recorded a behind-the-scenes podcast named Inside the Ballet with Holly Hynes, during production week of Choreographer Paul Vasterling's Firebird, produced at the Nashville Ballet in May, 2022. 

Ms. Hynes was selected to be one of four behind-the-scenes ballet artists to be featured in "Beyond the Stage Door" an interactive exhibition presented by the Philadelphia Ballet. Premiering on April 29, 2022, at the Cherry Street Pier, two animators created a video stage door illustrating Ms. Hynes's process of designing ballet costumes via stylized and elegant, animated watercolor-infused pencil drawings.

Featured in a podcast, produced and hosted by former New York City 1010 WINS radio anchor Sandie Klein, and aptly named "Conversations with Creative Women," Ms. Hynes engaged with Ms. Klein to discuss her years of experience – leading to a distinguished and prominent career as a prominent ballet designer.

Ms. Hynes was featured on San Francisco Ballet's Meet the Artist Interview Podcasts before the premiere of Christopher Wheeldon's "Number Nine."

In May 2007, her thoughts on designing for the ballet were archived in a video titled "Speaking of Dancing" for the Jerome Robbins dance division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in New York City.

In October 2014, Ms. Hynes was a guest Skype lecturer for the "Behind the Scenes with Artists: Life Long Learning" lecture series on Hilton Head Island, SC. Ms. Hynes and her husband produced three videos in which she talks about her inspiration, collaboration, and research process in conceiving ballet costume designs for upcoming projects. For the seminar.

In the fall of 2010, Ms. Hynes and colleague Mimi Maxmen were invited to give a presentation entitled, "See the Music - Hear the Dance" in Florence, Italy, at the Second Costume Colloquium celebrating dress for the dance.

In October 2019, Ms. Hynes spoke at the Barnes Foundation's Comcast Auditorium in Philadelphia. She was invited by Pennsylvania Ballet staff to present and participate in a panel discussion with Director Angel Corella, a Barnes costume educator/historian and fashion education/career professionals associated with Thomas Jefferson University's Fashion department. This was the culminating event of a design competition for T.J.U. Fashion students who competed to design for Pennsylvania Ballet II.


Appointed in 2019, Ms. Hynes is an active member of the Theater Development Fund's Board of Trustees. 

She also is a long-standing member of the TDF Irene Sharaff Award Committee. 


Her proudest accomplishments are her two children, both artists, and her marriage to her husband Jim Zulakis since 1980.

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Headshot Photo credit - Rosalie O'Connor

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