Thief steals handmade costumes from San Jose ballet studio

For dancers and audience members alike, perhaps one of the biggest jos of ballet are the costumes. But at the San Jose Dance Theater, most of its costumes are now gone after they were stolen out of a storage area this week.

"A punch in the gut here to find that we have been broken into," said artistic director Linda Hurksman.

A staff member discovered the theft and called police.

"They broke a window. They jimmied the door. The door was damaged and they got in," said Hurksman.

The thief left with dozens of customes.

"They are really valuable to us, and worth thousands of dollars. But can only be used in something like ballets and dance performances. It is not something everyday people need or use," said costume director Renee Forbes. "These custumes are like my children."

Forbes designed and handmade almost all the tutus and other clothing the dancers have worn. She says it's a laborious process, taking five months to just make four customes for an upcoming virtual performance of Sleeping Beauty.

"Last night I was lying there thinking where are they? They are just out there somewhere. It's just devastating," said Forbes.

The San Jose Dance Theater has been teaching and performing ballets such as The Nutcracker for the past 55 years, making it the oldest dance studio in the city. It also has formed San Jose's only ballet company.

"Hearing the costumes are gone is heartwrenching," said one parent. She has two daughters at the studio. "By losing these costumes they have so much history it is something that you can't replace."

Police say the case is under investigation. Crime statistics show commercial burglaries are up 21% in San Jose since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

"For a lot of businesses during the pandemic, there's not a lot of activity happening. They are seeing there's not a lot of people coming in and out. So they probably felt safe they could do something like this," said Hurkmans.

The dance theater is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of the stolen costumes.