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How the ballet costume has changed over the past 200 years: From lush flounces to tight leotards
How the ballet costume has changed over the past 200 years: From lush flounces to tight leotards

No matter how diverse the costumes of modern dancers are presented, the word "ballerina" conjures up the image of a gentle, graceful girl in an airy tulle tutu and pointe shoes. For today's ballet, this wardrobe is the most formulaic, but it is worth noting that the tradition of classical ballet costume is not as old as one might imagine. The ballerina, who first appeared on stage in an extravagant tutu for her time, made a splash and made a fashion revolution in the world of ballet.

The pomp of baroque outfits

Dancing. Baroque and Rococo. Minuet

The first ballet performances in the Russian Empire were not independent performances. At 18, such numbers were shown during intermissions, which were then called senja. Ballet in such intervals was called between seasons. They did not differ much from traditional ballroom dancing, and the costumes of the artists resembled ordinary festive decorations. The main "difference" was the excessive "theatrical" decoration in the form of shuttlecocks, ruffles and embroidery with precious stones.

Female characters, which were sometimes embodied by young men, were dressed in long dresses with a domed frame and several layers of petticoats. The costumes for the male roles consisted of embroidered camisoles and pantaloons. High heels, intricate hairstyles and extravagant headdresses were essential elements of the image of the then ballerinas.

All this, however, greatly influenced the development of the art of ballet dance. Costumes for specific roles first appeared in the 18th century, when the formation of ballet as an independent phenomenon took place. Choreography has reached a new, more complex level; men's stage costumes have become lighter, while women's stage costumes have become more open.

Flight of thought and body in the Empire

Modern pointe shoes

Empire style developed in the 19th century. He brought light, transparent dresses that did not hinder movement. They were in many ways reminiscent of ancient Greek decorations. Heeled shoes eventually replaced Roman-style sandals and satin flat shoes. They were attached to the leg with wide satin ribbons. This design soon evolved into modern pointe shoes.

First tutu and dancing on pointe

Maria Taglioni and Charles Muller, 1856

The premiere of La Sylphide in Italy in 1832 marked a revolution in dance costume. Swedish ballerina Maria Tarioni stood on her toes as if defying gravity. Her outfit, reminiscent of a flying skirt, added to the general sensation from the technique of the performance itself. At that premiere, Tagliani presented the ballet world with two "inventions" at once: pointe shoes and a tutu, setting the stage for a new stage in ballet.

The ankle-length skirt was a strategic move for Taglioni, who wanted to showcase her skill and hard work on stage, and the Parisian public was both ecstatic and outraged. Many viewers found this costume extremely obscene.

From year to year, the tutu turned into a shorter one, more and more exposing its legs and demonstrating the skills and skill of the artists. Fifty years later, the hem of the dress began to resemble a bell-shaped tutu; over time, the sleeves also disappeared, and the neckline increased.

Until the 1870s, tutus evolved into pancake-like "classic tutus", making it easier for dancers to move and dance. The most famous models are also represented by a stiff skirt with a wire mesh hoop. This allows the pack to maintain its shape and provides adequate stability.

Modern ballet outfits

The outfits of modern ballet art are distinguished by boldness and audacity

At the beginning of the 20th century, ballet costumes became more daring. In addition to the traditional tutu, ballerinas wore bold cuts, such as oriental costumes for Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Shasherazade and ethnic costumes for Igor Stravinsky's productions.

Further, there was a tendency to simplify the costume with the complication of the dance technique. On the stages of Europe and the United States at the end of the 20th century, ballet dancers performed in bandages. In the Soviet Union, bandages, tights, cotton trousers or culottes that fit only the thighs were also worn on the stage.

Today, costume designers are not tied to a particular style, but classical ballet still uses traditional outfits.

Swan Lake at the Mariinsky Theater

The type of skirt is determined by the growth of the artist, the features of her legs. The tutu can stand parallel to the stage, or be inflated at the bottom and slightly lowered.

The male part in classical ballet is performed in leotards and colettes. Colette is sometimes sewn directly onto the dancer so that it does not open.

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