November 6, 2011

Tutus and Dancing Queens

That would be an imaginary tutu, much like our imaginary audience behind the mirror. But it was the instruction given by our teacher in pointe class: you have to dance as if wearing a tutu! It is not just about attitude, regal carriage and all that ballerina cred. There is a practical reason. A short tutu shaped like a teacup, saucer or pancake (pick your prefered visual) can get in the way of your usual port de bras. And unless you want tutu to turn into an obstruction of dance, you have to move and hold those arms above the tutu-line. I had never given it much thought before, but the tutu is more than frilly decoration. It evolved from long to less to give freedom of movement and to show off the ballerina´s legs, but in the process it also shaped the way ballet is danced! 

Boston Ballet: Larissa Ponomarenko. Photo: Rosalie O' Connor.

Imagine yourself dancing in a tutu.. I gotta tell you, for me it borders on the tutu much. If you look at it purely from a fashion do -pointe of view, powder-pink tights and short pancake skirts are more of a don´t, at least for a short and curvy grown-up woman like myself. And if you´re feeling butt-conscious, wearing a saucer tutu is akin to carrying a neon-sign arrow pointed at your booty! There is just not much in the way of derriere coverage. I prefer longer tutus like the corps in the picture is wearing. Pretty and flattering. That, however, would be missing the point of the exercise. Butts aside, I try my best not to dwell on it, especially as my tutu is all make-belief anyway. 

You would think my imagination would allow me to wear my own design, but all I can "see" is Elisabeth Platel´s Grand Pas Classique tutu. It´s no wonder - since we started practicing parts of the GPC variation, I´ve watched Platel´s dancing on youtube about a 100 times.  I´m hoping something will stick by osmosis alone. Oh, and did I mention our teacher told us to dance like a queen? At this point it was hard to keep a straight face, as I was still adjusting my port de bras to my invisible tutu.. But for once, I cast my inner sarcastic critic aside and held my head up high. Majestically and high above the tutu-line. ;)


  1. Yes - I'm amazed such a garment that reveals your entire legs AND derriére was acceptable in an era way before the miniskirt! Imagine what courage it must have taken to wear one in the olden days? Where even an exposed ankle was considered risqué! Perhaps tutus weren't that short yet..? I'm not so familiar with the history of the tutu - but the thought of wearing one..on one hand it would be fab to wear something so emblematic to ballet - but the practical/aesthetic aspects of rear coverage (lack of!) does not really appeal to me either! But for a budding ballerina it must be a pretty awesome moment to put one on the first time - to be part of the tradition.

  2. One of my teachers has been addressing this as well...reminding us in our longer and dancier centre combinations that we are dancing for an audience and wearing a no more "bra bas" because the tutu would be in the way. It's "demi-seconde" to clear the tutu (among other things). So interesting to imagine that but I'm so glad that *I* don't have to wear one...yikes! I'm just getting to the point where I'll wear leotards and tights (though I draw the line at anything pink or frilly...still too much of the tomboy in me), so the tutu would be right out.

    However, I agree that the romantic tutus might be ok...and longer and flowier sounds more fun to dance in! :)

  3. I would love to wear a tutu someday, i think it would be awesome, honestly...oh, yes, im thinking and saying this while forgetting the "butt-conciousness" that is always, always there...For a ballerina (and we are all ballerinas no matter our level or anything because that´s a way of life and a way of thinking too) should be one of those moments as wearing the pointe shoes for the first time.
    YOu inspire me with your blog entries each time! Ill try to dance as a queen and will put on my imaginary tutu too, even though im just beginners 2 ;)

  4. The pancake tutu is not the scariest costume ever with regards to one's derriere. The long-sleeved unitard is. So awful. I had to wear one for a modern performance - even the skinniest of girls was complaining it made her butt look big. The next year I had a sheer lavender lace skirt with slits up the sides which is about as close to an adult tutu as I've gotten.

    I wore little kid tutus in the 80s for dance performances. You know the type; pile of four-year-olds on stage who can barely keep a combination together?

    This year for halloween we dressed up for class; the teenagers' class before us dressed up too. Some of them had proper tutu attire and they were dancing better than usual. :)

  5. Hi Iina,

    I'm not sure, but I think the white tights and the rouched bottom/panties provided the required modesty.. ;)

    Without googling into ballet tutu history, I think it's safe to say that scantily clad ballerinas were not always considered quite as respectable as their more modest non-dancing counterparts..

    But Iinushka, from a purely aesthetic point of view (even if that view is directed at your derriere), you have nothing to worry about. I know because I´ve seen you in class! Such a tiny butt you can show off anytime ;)

    But I understand that it could still feel like you´re sharing too much with your audience.

  6. Hehehe! I think this is the first time my derriere is discussed on the internet (to my knowledge at least!) Perhaps it's time I should stop being too prudish about my butt and gradually work towards the unitard - the ultimate test in braveness! ; D

  7. I think the most awkward part of wearing a tutu isn't the "exposed" rear, but getting through a doorway! Also, up until just a few generations ago, ballerinas were considered to be little more than talented "call girls"... if you catch my drift. In some cultures, I believe that might even still be the case!


To That Special Ballet Teacher

To that special ballet teacher, who not only teaches you about technique, but helps build your confidence, nurtures your inner artist, ...