Ballet costumes were result of decades of creativity

Courtesy photo This is an example of one of the many ballet costume sketches Margaret Barry, of Altoona, created for the company.

Starting in the late 1940s and continuing to 1962, the late Norma Clinich of Roaring Spring, worked with an Altoona ballet company and created costumes for their recitals.

Clinich, the mother of Nancy (Clinich) Ashman of Williamsburg and the late Judy (Clinich) Kilmer, sewed elaborate costumes for her three children Judy, Nancy and Johnny and other students that performed with the Ruth Barnes School of Dance. Nancy and her older sister Judy danced through their high school years and their brother Johnny danced for a year or two, also.

“Back then there were no dance-costume catalogs from which to order. My mother worked with Margaret Barry of Altoona, who played the piano for us at both lessons and recitals. (Barry) sketched out the ballet costumes on plain tablet paper and made a lot of notes so my mother knew what materials and colors they were to be. Some of the sketches still have fabric samples with them.”

Ashman has more than 70 of those original sketches and would like to see the collection preserved.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten the sketches out to look at them again. I feel something should be done with them because they are part of local history. I would hate to see them tossed into the garbage when I am gone,” Ashman, 77, said.

Unfortunately, in the 1960s, a leak in the family’s attic roof destroyed the ac-tual costumes her mother had saved.

Ashman — dressed as a boy groom — her sister Judy and Rose Marie Fisher were photographed for the cover of the 1958 recital entitled “Brendalena.” At the time, Ashman was a sophomore and her sister a senior in high school. Ashman’s groom costume consisted of white shorts with intricate and colorful brocade down each pant leg. Judy’s costume also featured extensive needlework.

“Back then, the recitals were big events at the Mishler Theatre,” Asman said. “It really pains me that I don’t have any of the costumes. My mother’s work was so outstanding. She knitted and sewed doll clothes, too. She taught us to sew when we were about 5 years old and we practiced making outfits for our dolls from socks.”

Mirror Staff Writer Patt Keith is at 949-7030.


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