The Australian Ballet

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The Tutu: A Love Affair

Named after the French slang for “bottom”, and as familiar to our dancers as their toothbrushes, the tutu still casts a spell. In this beautiful pictorial, our dancers tell us what they love about their favourite tutus.

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Juliet Burnett - Rehearsal Tutu

We rehearse for “tutu roles” in half-tutus, an unadorned tutu comprising of just the basque and the skirt. They make part of our work uniform – perhaps as cumbersome, but a tad more elegant, than an astronaut’s spacesuit or a diver’s oxygen tank and flippers. It’s important for us to wear the tutu during rehearsals in order to deal with its challenges as we learn the choreography, especially for a pas de deux so that our partners can negotiate this very elegant obstacle … The Australian Ballet usually performs at least two ballets per year in which you will see tutus, so it’s safe to say that I spend a lot of time wearing one. So much so that one of my half-tutus has a Vegemite stain on the tulle. Vegemite sandwiches are my favourite between-rehearsal snack. Don’t mistake this as a lack of reverence for the very icon of my livelihood … my goodness, I do love dancing in it.

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Lucinda Dunn - Don Quixote

The first time I wore this tutu as Kitri was in 1998. I had been in Don Quixote many times but this was the first time I danced the leading lady of a challenging three-act ballet. The third act costume is understated and regal, and the colours of apricot, white and gold are beautiful in the wedding scene, the climax of the ballet. The tulle skirt is compact and doesn’t overpower the movement, and the bodice provides a nice shape on my body. There are also pink diamantes perfectly placed on the brim of the tutu. As someone who is partial to pink sparkles, they are the perfect accessory!

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Miwako Kubota - Grand Pas Classique

The Grand pas classique tutu is everything a tutu should be: it looks so classy on stage; it’s comfortable and makes you feel like a true classical ballerina. It was designed by The Australian Ballet’s Artistic Director David McAllister in 2008, and feels gorgeous to dance in. I especially love traditional white tutus because I think of myself as a traditional dancer.

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Madeleine Eastoe - The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude

This tutu isn’t like most. It doesn’t have the soft tulle and lace trim of the Romantic-style tutus most commonly associated with ballet, but rather a stiff saucer-like skirt. The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude tutu feels like you’re wearing a large disc or plate which often moves in opposition to the way your body does, making it a challenge to control at times. Because it’s teamed with bare legs and flesh-coloured pointe shoes, you feel very exposed and have to apply your technique to the max! I think its design carries very well on stage and, even though it’s not like a typical tutu, you still feel very much like a ballerina.

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Laura Tong - Suite en Blanc

I had the most wonderful time performing “La Cigarette” in Suite en blanc, an elegant and extremely challenging solo. The tutu is pure white and unadorned, with a crisp tulle skirt and a boned bodice. It is light and feels lovely to dance in; almost like a second skin. A simple tutu allows the audience to focus on the essence of the dancer’s performance: the shapes, movements and subtleties of their interpretation. This tutu made me feel confident, glamorous and calm on stage. In this instance, less really does feel like more – especially while wearing lovely red lipstick.

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Lana Jones - Firebird

Firebird is a special ballet I hold close to my heart. Graeme Murphy created the title role on me which is an amazing experience to happen in a dancer’s career. His ballet was a new take on a classic, which is always exciting to be involved in. An enormous amount of work went into making this tutu; each piece of material was individually dyed and sewn on to look like feathers. The main colour of the Firebird’s costume is red, a colour I love. As soon as I put the tutu, headdress and make-up on I transform into the magical Firebird.

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Leanne Stojmenov - Coppélia

This tutu is very special to me because I wore it as the Coppélia doll in my first year with The Australian Ballet in 2001. In 2010 when Coppélia was restaged I wore it again, this time as the mischievous Swanilda when she sneaks into Dr Coppelius’ house and pretends to be the doll. This intricately designed tutu by Kristian Fredrikson has so much fine, delicate detail and it really helped get me into character as the doll. My performances in this tutu have been very memorable, and Swanilda has been one of my favourite roles to play.

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Amber Scott - Graeme Murphy's Swan Lake

Kristian Fredrikson’s White Swan tutu synthesises the characteristics of a swan with the personal attributes of Odette, the woman. The suppleness of the neck and body of both swan and ballerina meet in his honest design. It’s a garment with no distractions; not a feather or sequin in sight. The icy realm of act two is host to a series of tremendously daring partnered and solo work. I adore dancing the pas de deux from this act. It’s one of the only times in the ballet when the Prince and Odette are alone on stage together – a private and truly romantic moment. This tutu gave me wings to transform into Odette, a role now fondly embedded in my heart.

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Valerie Tereshchenko - the Romantic Tutu

What you’re wearing really does change the way you feel. With the Romantic tutu, you have to be very delicate and smooth because they move so much. If you move quickly across the stage part of your dress is left behind which gives the illusion that you’re floating, or flying.