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A Passion for Tutus

A Passion for Tutus

I remember my very first tutu… I was 4 years old and it was a hand me down, a plain white tulle tutu, to me it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I remember twirling around in the mirror watching the way it moved and feeling so special. I refused to take it off… even to sleep!

Throughout my dancing life I was lucky enough to wear so many beautiful tutus from this very first scratchy white tulle tutu, to my first ballet competition tutu dress (black with gold sparkles) to the first tutu I wore on stage for the Australian Ballet in La Bayadère and then all the tutus I wore in the many roles I performed.

Felicia Palanca at Ballet Class 5 years oldFelicia Palanca at Ballet Class age 5

A Little Tutu History

1832 – The Tutu Premiered

Marie Taglioni wore what we know as a Romantic Tutu in the premiere of La Sylphide. The calf length skirt was designed by Eugene Lami to show off Marie’s delicate footwork.

1870s – The Tutus got shorter

A shape known as the Classical Tutu was developed for ease of movement.  The classical tutu exposed the leg above the knee. Most of today’s tutu styles are variations of the Classical Tutu. 

1881 – The word Tutu was first recorded

Perhaps a reference to the multiple layers of tulle or from the French ‘cucu’ an infantile reduplication for bottom or backside. 

Felicia Palanca Dancing in a TutuFelicia Palanca dancing on stage in a Pancake Tutu

Today – There are 5 types of Tutu

  1. The Romantic Tutu is a soft, floaty, ankle-length, tulle tutu. This tutu appears in The Nutcracker and La Sylphide.
  2. The Bell Tutu is a stiff tulle tutu that sits above the knee creating a bell shape. You’ll see bell tutus in the ballet Paquita.
  3. The Pancake Tutu sits straight out from the dancer’s hips, made from ruffled, stiff tulle and often supported by a wire hoop. Its bouncy effect accentuates a dancer’s movement. This type of tutu can be seen in Sleeping Beauty.
  4. The Platter Tutu is very similar to a Pancake Tutu but has a flat, unruffled top, which might be intricately decorated. The lead role in Cinderella often wears a Platter Tutu.
  5. The Balanchine Tutu is a layered powder puff tutu in softer tulle giving the skirt more movement. A Balanchine Tutu is the inspiration for our Flo Dancewear Tutus.
Flo Dancewear Girls Powder Puff Tutu with Sequins
Flo Dancewear Sequin Tutu is a Balanchine or Powder Puff Tutu

Working up to a Tutu

Tutus for little dancers should not poke out too much from their bodies because they need to see their feet. When a ballet dancer wears a Pancake or Platter Tutu, they lose sight of their feet which can be unbalancing without the proper preparation. It takes a lot of practice to dance without being able to see your feet!

As a dancer progresses through learning ballet the tutus they wear will progress too. Younger dancers wear softer tutus or ballet skirts that don’t poke out from the body too much and as they become more advanced the tutus become stiffer and higher up until they are at a right angle from the body.

Flo Dancewear Two Girls Twirl in Tutu DressesBallet girls practicing twirling in Flo Dancewear Tutu Dresses

Time to twirl!

Twirling! It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been dancing, twirling in a new tutu never gets old. If your little dancer wants to learn how to pirouette check out my blog post on Pirouettes for Little Princesses here.

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