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  • Debate: Are tutus old-fashioned or a vital part of ballet's heritage and identity?

Debate: Are tutus old-fashioned or a vital part of ballet's heritage and identity?

The definitive piece of ballet costume has been around for nearly 200 years, but is it still relevant in the 21st century?

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

7 April 2015 at 12.42pm | 8 Comments

It's perhaps the enduring image of ballet in popular culture – a flat pancake tutu floating, framing a ballerina's waist as she jetés her way across stage or screen.

The tutu made its debut in 1832 worn around the waist of the great Marie Taglioni in her father Filippo's production of La Sylphide for Paris Opera Ballet. Taglioni's tutu wasn't quite the same style as the ones we see gracing dance stages around the world in the 21st century – her skirt was more bell-shaped than modern designs. Nevertheless, a design classic was born, and was swiftly adopted elsewhere (despite being problematic for ballerina and partner alike).

But after nearly 200 years, are tutus old fashioned? Doubtless, tutus still have their fans (just take a look at Twitter each week on #TutuTuesday) but modern ballet choreographers and designers seem increasingly to be turning away from the tutu, adopting different forms of dance costume – from shimmering, flowing dresses to more production-specific costumes that give a greater sense of character and setting.

We asked our Twitter following for their thoughts on the idea that tutus are old-fashioned:

Are tutus old-fashioned or a vital part of ballet's heritage and identity?
Have they become a cliché?

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

7 April 2015 at 12.42pm

This article has been categorised Ballet and tagged costume, debate, design, discussion, fashion, history, Social Media, tradition, tutu, Tutu Tuesday

This article has 8 comments

  1. Dana responded on 7 April 2015 at 2:32pm Reply

    They are definitely necessary in classical ballets, where they enhance the spinning-top-esque motion of fouettes, pirouettes and the like. I imagine a fairy, swan or doll would actually look ridiculous WITHOUT one. But certainly in modern and contemporary ballets, they have lost their place.

  2. Patrick Shaw responded on 7 April 2015 at 2:35pm Reply

    An intrinsic part of the magic for young and old alike!

  3. Nina Battleday responded on 7 April 2015 at 9:26pm Reply

    Think they are necessary for the big classical ballets,but even then I prefer to see them with a softer skirt rather than the more old fashioned ones that were, i believe, referred to as tea trays! Designers nowadays are so clever at designing costumes that look good and that can be danced in- don't think they have a place in modern ballets.

  4. Kevin responded on 7 April 2015 at 10:26pm Reply

    Tradition, tradition, tradition...TuTu Tu

  5. Robin Kay responded on 8 April 2015 at 12:10am Reply

    This is the dumbest question I've ever seen. Are we denying history? Are we doing away with crowns if we perform King Lear?

  6. Sarah Lockwood responded on 26 April 2016 at 11:26am Reply

    Costumes should be appropriate to both the music and the choreography of the ballet. It's hard to imagine Petipa's Swan Lake without tutus, but Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake clearly has no need of them. It's not a black and white question!

  7. Sergio Galvez responded on 26 April 2016 at 7:15pm Reply

    Tutus are timeless.... A must... Heritage....

  8. Donna Bernhardi responded on 19 November 2016 at 10:59am Reply

    Tutus are part of the visual spectacle, and of course heritage. They definitely add something special and unique to the visual art of Ballet, especially the classics. Agree with Sarah Lockwood's post!

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