“I didn’t think I’d get this lucky.”
That’s how Krista Allenstein describes her job as Milwaukee Ballet wardrobe mistress. Bear in mind, it’s a job that involves pound upon pound and mile after mile of laundry.
It truly is a labor of love for Krista.
“I love these dancers and this company,” she notes with her tireless smile.
In her trademark vintage attire, Krista embodies her role with Milwaukee Ballet. The former illustrator and toy designer is surrounded every work day by everything from sublime, intricate costumes to worn-out character and toe shoes – and literally everything in between, including tights and dance belts. (For the uninitiated, those are jock straps in the dance world.)
Krista came to her role first as a volunteer, then spent two years as the assistant to former wardrobe mistress Mary Belle Potter, who retired after the 2012-13 season – her 40th with Milwaukee Ballet.
Now, as wardrobe mistress, Krista will serve as the costume-nerve-center for every show, making sure items are laundered in a timely fashion, that clean costumes are where they need to be, that dressers are assisting the right dancers at the right times in the dim lighting provided backstage. It’s not for the faint of heart.
Yet Krista takes it all in stride, pointing out that her work combines all the attributes and aspects she would use to describe her dream job, back when she was just in her twenties; it demands that she effortlessly blend her people skills with creativity and a hearty knack for bringing order to chaos.
When you’re maintaining, organizing and laundering dancers’ wardrobes, the work can be messy, dirty and, yes, even stinky.
“I don’t know why I like this so much,” Krista laughs. “But I do.”
In all honesty, she’s quick to offer some reasons, such as:
“When this job is glamorous, it is glamorous. It’s just as beautiful and as lovely as you might expect.”
“Dancers are so much funnier than I’d thought,” she quips. “I think I initially was a bit intimidated, but they’re just real, kind and funny people.”
Similarly, Krista offers some advice to anyone who might harbor preconceived notions about ballet or the performers who bring the art form to life.
“If you want to assume anything, just assume it’s going to be an amazing show,” she explains. “Come with an open mind.”