The dance form, ballet, derived from the Latin word “ballare” which means to dance, traces its origins in the Italian renaissance courts of the 15th century. A poised style of dance, it incorporates the foundational techniques of several other dance forms. The dance is choreographed and performed by trained artists and includes mime and acting. It is usually accompanied with classical music. Although best known in the form of late romantic ballet, which mainly focuses the female dancer in the traditional short white French tutu, the later developments in the form include expressionist ballet, neoclassical ballet as well as elements of modern dance. Just like the dance form, the costumes have also evolved beyond recognition. Just as we know, no dance can be complete without the right music or costumes, so is the case with ballet as well. The fabric, colors and design used in the ballet costumes help in expressing the characters of ballet dance and unravel their story. Rehearsals of this dance do not require the same costume as the staged versions. So, common ballet dance costume consists of a pair of leotards, tights and slippers. However, when on the stage, ballet dancers are required to wear leggings, skirts and body suits.
Ballet Dance Costumes
Evolution of Ballet Costume
In 15th century Europe, ballet costumes were rich, flowing and extravagant, and ostentatiously ornamented. However, the ornaments, head pieces and the heavy fabric of the costume restricted the dancers’ movement. The late 18th and 19th century saw female ballerinas wearing calf-length white skirts usually made of a material called tulle. The shoes were made of satin allowing them to dance on their toe-tips. The male dancers wore tights with long-sleeved shirts and short jackets. With the evolution in costumes, the ballet techniques evolved too, incorporating the element of freedom while performing the steps, without being restricted by any means. The ballerina dancers of today wear a dress called ‘tutu’. It is a very short dress made out of tulle, net, muslin, organdy or nylon and is much above the knees. A classic tutu is made up of twelve layers and may be supported with the help of wire hoops. The costume is attached to the bodice and does not interfere with the body movements, which helps the dancers to portray each twist and curve with grace and elegance. Different kinds of tutus are available to suit the kind of ballet dance being performed. Let us take a look at the various types of tutu worn while performing ballet.
Types Of Tutu Skirts
It is a three-quarter bell shaped skirt made of tulle in the romantic period of ballet history. The hemline of this tutu falls between the knee and ankle and emphasizes the free-flowing, ethereal romantic theme used in ballet dance. Made up of 3-5 layers of soft tulle, the costume is attached to a fitted bodice.
A classical tutu juts out from the hips to elaborate the leg movements of the dancers. There are two basic versions of this skirt, namely, the bell tutu and pancake tutu. The bell tutu is a very short, stiff skirt with multiple layers made up of net, with a fitted, slightly bell shaped bodice. Extending outward from the hips, it is longer than the pancake version of classical tutu skirt.
The pancake tutu, on the other hand, is also a short, stiff skirt with multiple layers of netting extending out of the hips in a flat pancake shape. The pancake skirt is shorter, has more layers of net attached with a wire hoop. One needs to keep hand tacking the skirt in order to keep the layers flat and stiff.
Also known as the "powder puff", this style was originally designed for the ballet version of Georges Bizet’s Symphony. The Balanchine tutu skirt is very short with no wire hoops and fewer layers of net than the classical tutu style. The skirt is loosely tacked to lend a softer and fuller appearance.
Ballet shoes form a core element of the ballet costume. They are lightweight shoes, made up of soft leather, canvas or satin with flexible and thin soles. Conservatively, men wore white while women dancers wore pink ballet shoes. However, today the colors for the ballet shoes have also come of age. Today, ballet dancers mostly prefer to wear tan-colored shoes to give an experience that they are dancing barefoot.
Canvas ballet shoes are the most widely worn shoes for ballet classes. Besides retaining maximum flexibility, ballet shoes are also required to maintain a perfect balance while one dances on the toes. Therefore, the advanced female dancers wear pointed shoes, which are flat and sturdy and create an illusion of weightlessness, helping the dancers maintain their poise, while rising on the tip of their toes during the performance.