In the world of dance, classical ballet has been the magical foundation for learning this performing art. We imagine little girls in tutus twirling around the classroom with hair drawn up in a bun and feet clad in pink ballet slippers.
Sure, ballet is for boys as well, but somehow it just seems that every girl desires a tutu.
Don’t start a rant yet. Of course, our modern day dance experience is expansive, eclectic, rife with styles, fusion of cultures, and huge variety beyond ballet.
But this story is about the iconic tutu, which dates back to the 15th century.
Construction of the classical tutu is guarded as securely as ballet choreography. Tutu designers were not a sharing sort. Styles and techniques have certainly changed over the past few hundred years for sure.
Tutu.Com, based in Charlotte, NC, offers TutuSchools teaching traditional techniques as well as the latest innovations. More importantly, these workshops let you in on the secrets of design and ballet-world dos and don’ts.
TutuSchools are held twice a year in Charlotte and occasionally in other cities around the U.S., as well as in Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne, Australia. TutuSchool is also held at the International Ballet Competition in Jackson, MS, every four years presenting Project Tutu – the only tutu design competition and fashion show in the world!
Well, I avidly follow Project Runway on television. I dabble in costume design, and have actually made a fair few tutus. Project Tutu, held this last June, had a competitor from Surrey – Kevin Kreisz. Kevin has been designing and executing costumes for dance and theatre since his dance student days with Heather McBride School of Dance.
As an accomplished male dancer, Kevin has been involved with Royal City Youth Ballet and Royal City Musical Theatre as a performer. I remember working on costumes with Kevin (RCMT) and his enthusiasm was infectious. That was 20 years ago!
So, from a crowded space filled with fabric and volunteers working on costuming for community theatre, Kevin has definitely earned his spot at Project Tutu.
The Project Tutu designers (11 this year, with three Canadians including Kevin) were given a 12-piece bodice pattern, base materials and a package of three colour-coordinated fabrics. They then had 30 hours to design, construct, fit and embellish a tutu based on a ballet character.
Kevin’s design was for the Rose Queen from The Nutcracker ballet – a ballet he performed in many times with the youth ballet company.
“We had to alter the pattern and could bring in $100 worth of trims,” he said.
They could chose three basic fabrics from the supply store. In the last hour, they were given the challenge to add a headpiece for their design. Easy for Kevin with his experience.
“Give me a glue gun and I can bang out anything.”
Intense. The classical tutus you see on stage usually take weeks of construction to build and hours of fittings, in case you think 30 hours over three days is a generous amount of time.
Project Tutu is held in conjunction with USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi. More than 100 young ballet dancers compete for medals while the designers were whirring their machines to create a perfect tutu.
In addition to the competition tutu, designers also made another tutu for the fashion show and runway. These ‘extra’ tutus were auctioned off after the runway as a fundraiser for dance scholarships.
Although not a winner in this year’s Project Tutu, Kevin has his future in design well planned. New York and Paris are future destinations for training and fabric shopping.
Meanwhile, he is working hard at his “day job” to finance these future trips and training. For now, he would love to do more in design for dance and theatre costuming.
“I enjoy making a character,” he says.
His theatre costume design and construction was last seen in White Rock Players production (last summer) of Leading Ladies.
Kevin is open to creating costumes for local dancers while his Paris trip is still in the planning stages. He does have Facebook and Instagram with photos galore of his creations.
It is a challenging path ahead, and few costume makers are financially independent, especially with internet marketing.
For now, if you want a custom tutu, call Kevin. He’s got the skills, and who knows better how to design a dance costume than someone who actually dances?
See you on the runway.
Melanie Minty writes a column twice a month for the Now-Leader. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.