In a previous blog, called “Tutu Torture“, I wrote about how magical ballet costumes are, and how they are often the first things that make little girls (and sometimes boys) want to dance. However, we love to wear them, and one of the things dancers love most about performing is, arguably, wearing a costume. But what is it about costumes, anyway? Why do we love them so much, even though they sometimes get in the way of our dancing? (Ahem, TUTUS, I’m looking at you).
When interviewing dancers, I often hear that they love to dance because they can be somebody else onstage. A lot of them say that they are quiet and shy in everyday life, but that they assume another personality when they perform. The costume is of course part of that; it completes the mood of the role you are dancing, and it can create an intimacy between dancers onstage. Dancing in the corps of my youth company’s Swan Lake, for example, my white, knee-length tutu bound me to the other identically-dressed girls, and I believe it helped us stay together. The peach-colored, be-sparkled tutu I wore as the Hungarian princess in the ballet’s third act helped me assert my own personality, even while dancing in unison with the other princesses. National Ballet of Canada corps member Adji Cissoko, who I wrote about in my last blog, lights up when she talks about the opening moments of Serenade, and the amazing feeling of the corps, dressed in those beautiful long blue tutus, moving as one unit.
I can talk about the beauty and function of ballet costumes, but I don’t think that really gets to the bottom of why we love to wear them. I think it’s because, every time we finish dressing and pinning our crowns, we are taken back to that moment when we were first dazzled and delighted. It’s one of those firsts that we never forget, and that we are lucky enough to experience all over again every time we look in the mirror and smile at the beautiful ballerina looking back at us.