Tutu – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Dancewear & Costumes Glossary

I. What is a Tutu?

A tutu is a skirt worn by ballet dancers, typically made of layers of tulle or other lightweight fabric that give it a voluminous and fluffy appearance. Tutus are a staple in classical ballet performances and are often associated with elegance and grace. They come in various styles and lengths, depending on the type of ballet being performed.

II. Different Styles of Tutus

There are several different styles of tutus that are commonly used in ballet performances. The most traditional style is the classical tutu, which is a short, stiff skirt made of multiple layers of tulle that stick out horizontally from the dancer’s waist. This style is often seen in classical ballets such as “Swan Lake” and “The Nutcracker.”

Another popular style is the romantic tutu, which is longer and softer than the classical tutu. It typically falls below the knee and is made of a single layer of tulle that flows gracefully as the dancer moves. The romantic tutu is often used in ballets with a more lyrical and romantic theme.

A third style is the pancake tutu, which is a short, stiff skirt with a flat, pancake-like appearance. This style is often used in ballets that require a more dramatic and angular look, such as “Don Quixote” or “La Bayadère.”

III. Materials Used in Tutus

Tutus are typically made of lightweight fabrics such as tulle, netting, or organza. These materials are chosen for their ability to hold their shape and create a voluminous look. The layers of fabric are often sewn onto a fitted bodice or waistband to create the structure of the tutu.

In addition to tulle, some tutus may also incorporate other materials such as lace, sequins, or feathers to add embellishments and texture. These materials can enhance the overall aesthetic of the tutu and make it more visually appealing on stage.

IV. How to Care for a Tutu

Proper care and maintenance are essential for keeping a tutu in good condition and ensuring it lasts for multiple performances. Here are some tips for caring for a tutu:

1. Store the tutu in a breathable garment bag to protect it from dust and moisture.
2. Hang the tutu upside down on a padded hanger to help maintain its shape.
3. Spot clean any stains or spills with a damp cloth and mild detergent.
4. Avoid sitting or leaning on the tutu, as this can crush the layers of tulle.
5. If necessary, have the tutu professionally cleaned or steamed to remove wrinkles and refresh its appearance.

By following these care instructions, dancers can prolong the life of their tutus and ensure they look their best on stage.

V. History of the Tutu

The tutu has a long and storied history in the world of ballet. The first tutus were introduced in the 1830s as a way to showcase the dancers’ legs and footwork more effectively. Prior to this, female dancers wore long, heavy skirts that restricted their movement and obscured their technique.

The design of the tutu evolved over time, with different styles and lengths being introduced to suit the needs of various ballets and choreographers. Today, the tutu remains a symbol of classical ballet and is synonymous with grace, beauty, and elegance.

VI. Famous Tutu Moments in Dance History

Throughout the history of ballet, there have been many iconic moments featuring tutus that have captivated audiences and left a lasting impression. Some of the most famous tutu moments in dance history include:

1. Anna Pavlova’s “Dying Swan” – In this solo piece, Pavlova wore a white tutu to portray a swan in its final moments of life. Her graceful movements and emotional expression captivated audiences around the world.

2. Margot Fonteyn in “Swan Lake” – Fonteyn’s portrayal of Odette in “Swan Lake” is legendary, with her ethereal beauty and technical precision making her one of the most iconic ballerinas of all time.

3. Misty Copeland in “The Firebird” – Copeland made history as the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre. Her performance in “The Firebird” showcased her strength, agility, and artistry in a stunning red tutu.

These moments, among many others, have solidified the tutu’s place as a symbol of ballet and a timeless piece of dance history.