“In dance, the moving image is essential. Costumes take on a whole new meaning because of that.” Sanne Reichert has been working as a costume designer at Panama Pictures for years; her clothing is a major influence on the performances. “You want to see right away if it’s right, through each other, in the movement,” she says.

“What I do? I take care of the dancers’ clothes.” Sanne’s first explanation is modest but her work involves an intense and long creative process every time, and is a great influence on the performances of Panama Pictures. Indeed, like the performers and the scenographer, she too is involved in the development of each new piece from its inception – sometimes as early as a year before the premiere.

“It usually starts with a lecture by Pia Meuthen about her sources of inspiration and principles, after which she and I start associating. What colours and materials go with it? What atmosphere, what feeling? Does it need to be businesslike or casual? Should it be uniform or personal? But also: which movements should the performers be able to make in it? And where will the play take place: inside, outside? Pia often knows very well what she wants and what is needed, and I then look for the right forms and materials to go with it.”

Lining out

Sanne doesn’t make the costumes for the performances of Panama Pictures herself. “No, I buy and borrow clothes, often very common jackets and trousers, and adjust them for each performer. They have to be able to move well in them, each garment is adjusted to their posture – they don’t have standard sizes, these guys. So: lining out, new lining in, stretch material, tighter or wider, fitting all over again. Everything in such a way that every performer has all the space he needs and it still fits the overall image of the show.

She also works a lot for theatre, TV, musicals and film. And in those situations, clothes often have a different meaning than in dance performances. “Unlike theatre or film, where language is often an important component, in dance the moving image is essential. Clothing therefore takes on a completely different connotation, and has a greater influence on the experience. In theatre and film, costumes are often determined individually – each actor has his own suit. At Panama Pictures all costumes are coordinated, one whole. We also dress everyone together, at the same time. You want to see immediately if it’s right, through each other, in the movement.”


Every scenery and every location has its own specific clothing requirements. And that is quite a search sometimes, tailor-made work. “Yes, The Weight of Water, for example, is performed outdoors on an enormous work of art, floating in the water. Finding the right clothes to go with it, to protect against cold and water, is quite a challenge. But it worked out, the performers even wear wetsuits and can still move freely.

By the way, Sanne can’t manage with one set of clothes for every performer. “You have to have everything in duplicate. Those clothes have to suffer a lot because of the intensive movement. And everything that is worn on the skin, shirts and t-shirts, has to be washed after every performance. That’s another unique thing at Panama Pictures: Pia always does the washing.”