So, I know during the Russian Program we talked a lot about building and designing the tutus for Raymonda, but I don't remember if we ever talked about the difficulty involved in partnering a girl in a tutu.
When we first learn to partner girls in ballet school, they are usually just wearing a leotard and tights. No skirt, no warm-ups, nothing that you can catch you hands on or will slip off and get in the way. However, once a girl gets a tutu on, it changes a lot of things for the man. We become very used to being able to seeing the girls legs, feet, and hips and sometimes rely on that to gauge balance, but once she puts on a tutu, those visual ques are gone and you have to rely more on the weight you feel in your hands instead of what you can see. For a while after you start partnering someone in a tutu it feels a bit like you're blind, but as with losing any sense, the others seem to become heightened.
When we do a ballet like Raymonda or, what we're rehearsing right now: Swan Lake, we use practice tutus. They are a little bit different from normal tutus. Sometimes they are not as big, or don't have as many layers of tulle. They don't have the bodice attached to them, so it's just the skirt part of the tutu. But, it's enough for the men to get used to the feeling.
Swan Lake is a bit different from Raymonda in that we aren't only using the saucer tutus, but we're also using what's known as a Romantic Length tutu (we used to call them four-fours at my old studio. Get it?). They are longer and more skirt like and go to somewhere below the knee. Which can make it easier when turning the girl because you can almost see the legs, but can get in the way of big lifts because there is so much more fabric flying around.
Once we get on stage and start using the actual performance tutus I always feel so grateful for having used a practice tutu in the studio. When you're having to worry about spacing, lighting, and choreographic changes the last things I want to think about is how to partner effectively. The last sort of challenge comes in the addition of the bodice to the tutu skirt. There is sometimes a lot of embelishing on those, which can sometimes scratch your hands (I've heard horror stories involving too many sequins on the waist of a tutu which resulted in a partner with bloody hands). The tutu bodice is also made from a much stiffer fabric than the leotards that the girls wear in rehearsals, which can be both a blessing and a curse. It's makes the girl feels more like once solide piece, and therefore easier to partner, but it can also be hard to grab a hold of for lifts.
I know there are some challenges for the ladies involved in dancing in a tutu as opposed to a leotard and tights. Maybe Gavin or Mia (or both) would be interested in sharing some of those thoughts?
Well, I'm off to enjoy this AMAZING weather. Hope you all have a fantastic weekend!