From costumes to face masks, Atlantic Ballet Canada adapts during COVID-19 pandemic

As head seamstress for the Atlantic Ballet Canada, Gelena Devedjinejad is used to fine needlework. She is a custom designer and makes up to 100 costumes a year for the youth program.

Now she’s working on something totally different. Face masks.

“A lot of people have lost their jobs at this difficult time and a lot of organizations and a lot of businesses will close completely and I am glad we’re still able to work and it’s helpful for the company to survive at this difficult time as well.” Devedjinejad said.

The idea to switch from costumes to face masks came when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and performances for the non-profit Atlantic Ballet Canada were no longer an option.

As the discussion about wearing face masks picked up, CEO and co-founder Susan Chalmers-Gauvin said there was a great flurry of activity with people looking to buy them.

An initial Facebook post by the ballet offering to make them locally and keep staff employed brought in 4 inquiries overnight.

Susan Chalmers-Gauvin, the CEO and co-founder of Atlantic Ballet Canada, wears one of the masks now being made. She says the community has been very supportive. (Submitted; Susan Chalmers-Gauvin)

Then they decided to go ahead and within the first 48 hours, they received 500 orders.

Chalmers-Gauvin says it has helped keep employees going.

“This has been very important to keep Atlantic Ballet connected to the community because suddenly we can’t perform and that’s the life blood of an organization to be in front of an audience, whether it’s our professional dancers or whether it’s through our youth education program and that was cut off immediately.” she said.

“So this has been a wonderful way to reach out to touch the community, to have the community interact with us.”

The demand for the non-medical masks continues to grow. More than two thousand have been ordered in the last three weeks. And there is now a backlog.

Chalmers-Gauvin says they’re looking for volunteers to help sew, cut, iron or assemble.

Dancers Thomas Biel Torra Matamala, and Thomas Badrock, who are also roommates, model their masks. (Submitted: Susan Chalmers-Gauvin)

She says a lot of businesses in the Greater Moncton area have reached out with bulk orders.

“As they’re preparing to go back to work they order bulk, 70 masks, 80 masks at a time so that’s been very positive.” she said.

Chalmers-Gauvin says it doesn’t look as if business is going to slow down any time soon.

“It may be that we are wearing masks all the time or any time we’re in the retail stores, so we’ll have an understanding of that over the coming weeks. But certainly for now we’re still getting lots of orders and we’re happy to take those orders and happy to support our community and have them support us.” Chalmers-Gauvin said.

This material was donated to the ballet by Ginette Martin, the former Ambassador of the Embassy of Canada to the Democratic Republic of Congo. (Submitted: Susan Chalmers-Gauvin)

Devedjinejad, who has been with the ballet since 2015, is thankful to the community.

“We have a lot of orders and they are supporting us and it’s really helpful at this time, really important to help each other.” she said.

“Helping each other, we’ll be able to make it out through this difficult time and survive.”

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