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Tom47

Thoughts regarding dancewear:

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Natalia, I thank you for your interesting topic dealing with the cost of tutus as it inspired me to start this general topic dealing with dancewear. I wanted to ask the responders to your topic a number of questions dealing with dancewear, but I didn't want to move it off your first post.

To all, this topic is about dancewear in every way. I encourage anyone to comment on whatever you feel is interesting in regard to both female and male attire. Some suggestions would be general aesthetics, personal experiences, design and materials, colors and the history and development of dancewear, as well as cross overs between dancewear and street fashions, but other comments would also be welcome. I feel there are, at least, three reasons for people, including dancers, to wear clothes - for protection and support; for visual effects (decoration, showing of status, gender, situation and historical context) and for modesty.

Tom,

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I do not know all that much about ballet and in starting this topic I did not plan to comment very much, being hopeful that others would be sharing their knowledge. That did not happen, so I am now writing this somewhat serious - somewhat not so serious post.

From what I've read the origin of the word "tutu" is from the French juvenile term "cucu" which in turn is from "cul" meaning "bottom or backside." It appears that the term "tutu" came into usage between 1913 and 1930. Well what does bottom or backside have to do with tutus? One suggested possibility is that as what we now call tutus became shorter and shorter, it became easier and easier to see under the dancer's skirt. While the audience would not actually be able to see the dancer's bottom or backside they could more and more be able to see a relatively tight piece of clothing which covered the bottom or backside. This possibility produces a number of thoughts in my mind. First it seems that people who attended ballets were not always as "high minded" as their stereotype is today. Second technically the word tutu may only really refer to short skirted tutus. Now I am perfectly happy to call the longer romantic era tutus, tutus and I'm not saying that people should change what they say it's just that I feel this is interesting and I am too - too interested in what people think about this.

Tom,

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Tutus are a most remarkable garment and here I am mainly talking about the flat skirt of the modern tutus. Earlier I wrote that I felt there are at least three reasons for people to wear clothes - for protection and support, for visual effects and for modesty. Well it seems to me that flat modern tutu skirts don't offer any protection (for example from the weather of the cold) or support and don't offer any modesty. In fact many tutus are designed to cover as little as possible. Again I am here just talking about the skirt portion. In regard to visual effects tutus do signify gender, but appear to do little to signify status, situation or historical context. To me the primary purpose of the tutu skirt, by far, is for decoration that is for beauty.

Tom,

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White Acts / Rainbow Acts:

I remember reading somewhere that acts 2 and 4 of Swan Lake, the ones by the lake, are called the White Acts, I guess because the swans are traditionally dressed in white. Well it seems to me that there are other "White Acts." One is the Dance of the Snowflakes from the Nutcracker. Another is the act of the Shades from La Bayadere. Also there is the last act from Giselle. They also seem to me to take place at night.

On the other hand there seems to be some "Rainbow Acts" - acts where different groups of dancers of the Corp de Ballet are dressed in varying pastel colors. The difference here is that the White Acts are traditional, while the Rainbow Acts seem to only be in certain productions. Two such acts are Le Jardin Anime sequence from American Ballet Theatre's 1999 production of Le Corsaire and the Dream sequence from the Mariinsky Ballet's 2006 production of Don Quixote.

Tom,

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Tutus are a most remarkable garment and here I am mainly talking about the flat skirt of the modern tutus. Earlier I wrote that I felt there are at least three reasons for people to wear clothes - for protection and support, for visual effects and for modesty. Well it seems to me that flat modern tutu skirts don't offer any protection (for example from the weather of the cold) or support and don't offer any modesty. In fact many tutus are designed to cover as little as possible. Again I am here just talking about the skirt portion. In regard to visual effects tutus do signify gender, but appear to do little to signify status, situation or historical context. To me the primary purpose of the tutu skirt, by far, is for decoration that is for beauty.

Tom,

My understanding of all this is that the tutu, at least in classical ballet, was intentionally used to divide the body horizontally, and so underscore and delineate the differences in movements, and choreography, for the upper body (alignment, port de bras, etc.), from leg work (jete, battement, etc.).

Modern ballet choreography, imo, tends to blur these distinctions, so there's less need to set off upper and lower body movements visually with pancake tutus. Balanchine's Apollo and Prodigal Son would be good examples of the change to a different costume type to deal with a different approach to balletic movement ('neo-classical' ballet).

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Pherank you made an interesting point about tutus, something that I have not thought of before. It is also interesting information about the distinction between classical and modern choreography. Lastly I almost given up on someone replying to this topic. So, three times thank you.

Tom,

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The tutu is descended from the standard courtly dress of the early professional dancers. As the profession became more established, and clothing became costume, dancers started to strip away some of the embellishments and shorten their skirts to facilitate movement. (this always reminds me of George Balanchine's remodeling of Kurt Seligman's original costumes for 4 Temperaments). Over time, as the tutu skirt becomes more vestigial, it has grown to serve as a delineator between upper and lower bodies, but I don't think that was the original intention.

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The Mariinsky Ballet's 2006 production of Don Quixote (mentioned earlier) has, I feel, particularly colorful costumes, not only for the Dream sequence, but in general. I was acutely aware of this in the final wedding scenes in regard to Kitri and the other female dancers (her bridesmaids?) On a side note I felt that Olesya Novikova (Kirtri) and Leonid Sarafanov (Basilio) really fit their roles. Their roles were of two young lovers and they seemed young (I 'm not sure of their ages in 2006). The "chemistry" between these two dancers is enjoyable to me. They showed themselves to care for each other despite of the teasing between them. At times they behaved as to not care about the other, but that was revealed to be only an act. I thought they made a cute couple. Now, they may have had some help in that it seems they were actually in love as I recently read they are married. Here is a great picture of the two. I'm guessing it is from "The Sleeping Beauty."

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/75/8d/4a/758d4aebf3f3849145b480c5bbef5977.jpg

I also found a photo on a facebook fan page of the couple in casual clothes with their friends.

Sandi, again thank you for your contribution.

Tom,

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      I like to examine the status quo – that is I like to try and discover how things got to be as they are and what could happen if things change.  While watching my copy of the Mariinsky Ballet’s “Don Quixote” I noticed that two of the female dancers, the flower-sellers, weren’t wearing white tights.  They weren’t really dressed in tutus, more like short skirts or dresses down to their knees.  I assumed they were wearing sheer tights, but their legs could have been bare.  As far as I remember all of the women whose costumes consisted of classic tutus wore white tights, but this set me thinking.  What would a ballet and even a traditional ballet be like if female dancers wore sheer tights or even went bare legged when wear classical tutus.  I guess one objection to that would be that it is traditional to wear non-sheer tights with tutus and that it would not have the same traditional look, but then things even in ballet change.  I did see a movie “Center Stage” (2000) where female dancers danced in very short skirts, technically not tutus with sheer tights and with toe shoes.

      Tom,

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