Costume Accidents On Stage-Do They Really Happen Anymore?

So many things about the world of dance revolve around perfectionism.This notion of perfection can make you wonder if real dancers have real imperfect moments when they or their costume does something wrong in front of hundreds of people during a performance. Yes, It does make one shudder to think about such a thing! A dancer is human after all, so there is always the potential for a mishap. With all the physicality and movement that can go on during a performance, it is surprising that costume accidents don’t happen all the time.

Do Professional Dancers Have Costume Issues On Stage?

Because we see the ballerina in  the full splendour of costume “perfection”, it can be hard to imagine what kind of costume issues a professional dancer may have had in her career. Ballet also has a very serious undertone that would make even the slightest mishap on stage more of a tragedy and less of a comedy. Although human experience can be chock full of little mistakes and “bloopers”, dancing in a costume that has not been used over and over again is probably a lot safer.

Pale Blue Classical Tutu

A Couture  Costume Versus Company Stock

It is my personal opinion that a bespoke tutu made just for one dancer by an expert using high-quality construction techniques is going to have  certain security benefits during a performance that a reused company stock costume may not have. Here are three benefits:

  1. It is fitted to your body specifically.  Dancing in company stock means that a fitter may have to pinch in seams, let things out or hold a costume section together with “temporary” stitches. This causes vulnerable areas in the costume. Couture is superior is this sense.
  2. Your couture costume belongs to you and is fresh and new. It hasn’t been worn by hundreds of dancers.
  3. Comfort is key with couture costumes. Longer torsos, shorter legs or having a figure challenge is no problem. Your tutu will fit your body perfectly and feel comfortable and secure. Ask any long-torso dancer how it feels to get into a costume with a short bodice; it is most uncomfortable and will inhibit her dancing.

The Possibilities For A Costume Accident Are Always There

false-eyelashAfter I read this article, How To Avoid  Ballet Stage Accidents,  I was amazed to see how many things can go wrong on stage! False eyelashes falling off? How dreadful!  Audience members, family and friends can have little idea how many things on a dancer have to be glued, sewed down, reinforced, tacked, wrapped and secured as tightly as possible. If you have a few minutes, this article will really intrigue you.

One of the most shocking and surprising mishaps listed in the above article was tutus falling off during a performance. How does a tutu fall off? This is a question for our expert designer, Monica Newell.

Ways That A Ballet Costume Can Fail During A Performance

Although this is technically not a costume failure, many male dancers have challenges dealing with a full tutu skirt during lifts and highly technical pas de duex roles. Long, sheer romantic tutu dresses seem to wrap themselves around the legs of the dancer as she moves. Anytime fabric winds itself around a moving limb, a tear or tangle can surely happen. It is my guess that costumes become frail when they are part of a ballet company stock. They are used repeatedly. Of course, professional ballerinas must use stock costumes, but there is nothing quite as special as having a designer make a gorgeous tutu just for you.

In Memory Of Emma Livry; The Most Tragic Of Ballet Costume Accidents

What is so heartbreEmma Livry Ballerinaaking about the story of Emma Livry is how young she was when she died. Not only was she young, she suffered for months before she succumbed to her injuries.  Emma’s story lives on because of the rarity of her accident. Ballet is strenuous, but not deadly. She just lived in a time when using gaslights for stage illumination was a common thing.

Back then, people did not know to Stop, Drop and Roll if they accidentally caught on fire. Emma panicked when her tutu dress burst into flames from a brush with the gaslights. She then ran back and forth on stage which only fed the flames.

The accidents that are most common in the modern ballet world have more to do with pulled muscles, bunions, tendonitis and the general aches of trying to perfect ballet technique. Emma’s story is truly one of the  saddest examples of a costume accident in the history of ballet.

Although Emma will always be remembered as the ballerina who caught on fire, it is more fitting that we remember her as the  beautiful, talented 21 year-old protegé’  of  Marie Taglioni and of The Paris Opera Ballet School that she was.   Rest in peace, Emma.


One comment

  1. Gosh yes the story of Emma Livry comes to mind immediately on this subject. Many theatres burned down in those times, I think the Paris Opera burned a few times? As a tutu maker I do get very nervous of accidents, – are the layers tacked properly ? are they too tight so the tutu bunches? and they too loose so the tutu flops? is the plate tacked properly, is the decoration secure, are the diamonds glued on sufficiently, is the bodice tight enough or too loose, is it cut high enough, is the skirt too long or too short , is the hoop in the right place and so the worry goes on. But at least these days we are not likely to face the trajedies that happened in the past.

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