Every ballet dancer knows the time, sweat, and occasional tears the art form demands. But many non-dancers are clueless about just how much work a ballet dancer puts into perfecting his or her dancing. So when the mainstream crowd recognizes our crazy work ethic, we'll accept the round of applause any way it comes—even if it comes via four men in tutus. Yep, we're talking about "The Try Guys Try Ballet" video.
It's no secret that we're as obsessed with pretty costumes as we are with the pretty dancers who wear them. There's just something so magical about following the life of a tutu, or going behind the scenes to see how costume shops take their creations from the page to the stage. Costumes also hold a special place in every dancer's heart.
Which is why, when we stumbled upon this Fashion magazine article, we did a little happy dance. Fashion followed National Ballet of Canada principal Greta Hodgkinson (who's celebrating her 25th year with NBoC and her 20th year as a principal in the company) into the wardrobe room—and had her round up her favorite costumes of all time. Which was no small feat, considering Hodgkinson has danced pretty much every principal role in NBoC's classical repertoire. NBD.
Gisele Bethea stands in the center of a rehearsal studio at American Ballet Theatre's headquarters, breathing hard. The ABT apprentice (who was then a member of the ABT Studio Company) and her partner have just finished running a pas de deux from La Bayadère. With her impossibly long legs and regal bearing, Gisele makes a picture-perfect Gamzatti, the ballet's spurned princess. But while she executes the choreography beautifully, the good-natured dancer has a harder time capturing Gamzatti's devious personality. “Remember, she's not sweet," says ballet mistress Nancy Raffa. “She just came out of a big catfight!"
You guys, it's just tutu much! (I'm sorry. I had to.) One look at the insanely beautiful, brand new tutus for David McAllister's The Sleeping Beauty at The Australian Ballet is enough to make you wish you could live in a mountain of pink tulle and gemstones for the rest of your life.
As we know, tutus can get a little, well, grimy, after years of wear and tear. But since this is a brand new production, the costumes are all completely fresh. And genius designer Gabriela Tylesova has pretty much outdone herself with these beauties—the colors and shapes jump right out of the photos. This is just old-fashioned #nofilter craftsmanship at its best!
Nicola Curry, Valerie Tereshchenko, Dimity Azoury and artists of The Australian Ballet (photo Kate Longley)
Amber Scott rehearses the Lilac Fairy (photo Kate Longley)
Sophie Morgan and artists of The Australian Ballet (photo Kate Longley)
Wouldn't it be nice to fly around the world and see every dance-related performance, exhibit and event? Le sigh.
Fortunately the interwebz make it easy to get a glimpse of international dance beauty, even if we can't be there in person. Case in point: The Palais Garnier is currently exhibiting some of the most spectacular tutus we've ever seen, from Paris Opéra Ballet's productions of Paquita, The Nutcracker and more. We already knew that everythingPOBtouches is stunning, but this takes it to the next level.
Can't catch the next Air France flight to Paris? Check out the photos below, all taken by Elena Bauer. You're welcome!
If tutus could talk, they’d tell some pretty amazing stories. According to Jason Hadley, New York City Ballet’s costume shop manager, tutus often “live” for several decades, lending their transformative powers to multiple generations of ballerinas. Sometimes that history can even act as a good luck charm. What young dancer wouldn’t want to perform in a tutu once worn by Suzanne Farrell?
DS went inside the NYCB costume shop to get a detailed look at an especially spectacular tutu: Odette’s costume from George Balanchine’s one-act Swan Lake. This particular tutu was “born” in 1986, the year designer Alain Vaes reimagined the production’s sets and costumes. Since then, it’s been worn by three remarkable ballerinas: Darci Kistler, Monique Meunier and Wendy Whelan.
“The first time I danced Odette, it was at the School of American Ballet Workshop Performance, so I didn’t have a tutu of my own. I wore one of the company’s corps de ballet swan costumes. It was very simple, and it didn’t have any real feathers. This tutu was my first real Swan Queen costume, and one of my favorite tutus of all time. I loved the little jewels and the low cut in the front—and, of course, the feathers. When I put it on, I instantly felt like a bird.” —Darci Kistler
Like any 28-year-old piece of clothing, the tutu looks a little shabby these days. (Odette does a lot of intense dancing, after all.) But every tiny tear tells a story. And that special tutu-y magic? It’s more powerful than ever.
“Wearing other dancers’ tutus was so special. The first time I danced Dewdrop in The Nutcracker, George Balanchine put me in a costume worn previously by ballerina Tanaquil LeClercq, which had an extra-short skirt to show off your legs. That was a huge compliment!” —Darci Kistler
(Photo by Travis Magee)
New York City Ballet’s tutus don’t survive into their 20s and 30s without a lot of help. After each performance, says NYCB costume shop manager Jason Hadley, every tutu is inspected for rips and stains, which are addressed immediately. It’s difficult to wash a whole tutu, but the wardrobe department has special potions that can get makeup and sweat out of even the most delicate silk fabrics.
Many tutus constructed more recently also have “pit pads” in the armpit areas, to help prevent sweat from seeping to the outside of the costume; the pads are changed out
and washed between each performance, too. Then, at the end of the season, every tutu is sent to a special dry cleaner for a more thorough cleaning.
Storage poses another interesting challenge. Some tutus are hung upside-down, to help preserve their shape. Newer tutus, though, are often stored in specialized containers. In 2012, for example, NYCB created 36 Swarovski-crystal–encrusted tutus for its production of Symphony in C. “They live in customized crates, where they lie flat on individual shelves,” Hadley says. “That keeps them nice and perky.” Some tutus are stored in the basement of the company’s home, Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater. But costumes for bigger productions—like A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Sleeping Beauty—are kept in NYCB’s warehouse in New Jersey.