Everything in life goes through stages. For a ballet student, the journey to a serious career is very much like that of a cocoon turning into a butterfly. Like a tightly formed bud that gradually opens into a flower, there is a growth process that every long-term dance student goes through.
It makes sense that dreams and goals are best attained one small step at a time. In much the same way, the reasons for wearing and loving a tutu can go through many stages in the life and mind of a dance student.
For the sake of reflection, it’s interesting to get inside the mind of a dancer as she goes through the process of her ballet training. What might a very young student think about tutus versus one that has reached the top-level of her career?
1. The Budding Ballerina
What would a young dance student think about tutus? I imagine there would be incredible joy at looking authentic when comparing herself to older dancers. A young one wants to look real above all else. Children learn by modeling behaviors and appearances. Can’t you just hear all the little girls out there saying, ” I want to look like a real Ballerina. Can you get me a tutu?”
2. The Investment Stage
Between the ages of 9-12, a student may not know exactly where her training will take her. At this point, parents are willing to make an investment if a child shows interest and potential in such a beautiful art form.
If I were between the ages of 9 to 12, wearing a gorgeous tutu would help me increase my confidence level. Feeling pretty and very special would be another perk.
These are the years that etch lifelong memories in a young dancer’s mind. It’s hard to forget your first professional tutu.
3. The Serious Ascent To A Paid Ballet Career
From age 13 and up, a student may have several years of training behind her. It is probably at this stage where many decide to get serious about a real career as a dancer. That means entering competitions and trying to win scholarships to professional theaters. Tutus become more serious at this level. At this stage, a dancer wants ( and needs) to win and impress. The design of her tutu must help her get there.
4. From Corp Member To Soloist
Hallelujah, you’ve made it into a professional dance theater and you are now a paid corp member! The next honor to work for is to be chosen as a soloist for the company. What would a soloist want or need in a tutu? Because she is a soloist, she naturally becomes the focus during the performance. She will require that her costume be the perfect example of the role and character she is portraying.
Principal Ballerina Svetlana Lunkina
5. From Soloist To Principal Dancer
The star of the show. One whose perfection of technique deserves the highest honor. The ultimate expression of artistry and theatrical presence must be built-in to the tutu design of a principal dancer. By this stage in a ballet career, the dancer has accepted that only the best will do. The best instructors, the best choreographers, the best practice studio, the best pointe shoes and the very best quality of construction for her costumes.
It really is amazing when you think how much responsibility a professional tutu maker takes on. Unlike the clothing we grab at home and take for granted, the design of a tutu comes with high expectations from many people at many different levels; including the tutu maker herself. A designer cannot rest on their laurels because so many rely on the costume to inspire, encourage, motivate and communicate theatrically. It also has to represent the traditions of Classical ballet with honor and esteem.
It really is no wonder that so many are fascinated with the principles of tutu making and the artistic people who devote their lives to creating these magnificent garments.
Image Credits: Flickr.com, Misty Copeland by Kent G. Becker, No Modifications, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/