If I were to create a list of top three reasons why little girls want to be ballerinas, it would probably look something like this:
3. Did someone say “Tutus”?
That’s right, those sparkly, lacy, fluffy costumes seen on many ballet stages are generally what cause what I like to refer to as “tutu fever” in most girls ages 3-6, when a lot of them start creative movement and ballet classes. I witnessed the symptoms often enough when I was the manager of a dancewear shop that sold oodles of mini-tutus, and they commonly manifested themselves as: open-mouthed wonder upon first encountering said tutu (adorable), followed by delight in ripping it off the hanger and running around with it (not so cute), followed by tantrum when Mommy would not buy tutu because it was not the class uniform. Needless to say, Mommy usually ended up buying it after that, which miraculously cured the fever, and everyone went home happy.
Now that I’m a bit older than six, and having worn many tutus, I think about those little girls watching their first ballet and getting hooked by those beautiful costumes and wonder if they have any idea what they’re getting themselves into. Those tutus look amazing from the audience, sure, and they definitely help create the mystique and ethereal aura around ballerinas, but once you’re in one, boy, everything is different. First, tutus, especially the traditional ones with a heavy, non-stretch bodice and boning in the seams, are NOT comfortable AT ALL. Since there’s often no spandex in the bodice, it has to be very tight, and when it has boning, it’s very stiff. This means saying goodbye to breathing normally and being able to bend your torso easily. Second, let’s talk about the leg holes. If you’re lucky, you can just wear your own dance underwear that matches your tutu and that actually fits, or, if you’re unlucky, the tutu will have built-in bottoms. Now, as all derrieres are not created equal, there is a good chance that they will not be cut to fit you, which means that they might be too tight around your hip joints (awful) or that you’ll be showing some cheek down there. This is o.k. if you’re wearing a romantic tutu, but can be tough if you’re sporting a classical “pancake” model. Either way, these two factors, when combined, make for an uncomfortable performance experience.
All that being said, one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had was appearing as Dew Drop in my youth company’s Nutcracker, and yes, I wore a tutu. And of course, all the discomfort melted away when I ran out onstage at the beginning of that waltz, and felt all eyes on me as the hot lights twinkled and danced across my sequined skirt.