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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Past Links 2012

Danielle DeVor

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The bit about the costumes with tons of hooks, etc. I think is a bit misleading. Many are excellent costumes that have "tons of hooks" because the costume is magnificent and made with a great deal of care and craftsmanship. They last! The reason they are borrowed is because they are beautiful. The reason they have so many hooks is because they have been used on so many different size and unique dancers over the years. It is a testament to the quality of the costume, not to "poor" budgets.


I am not saying ballet companies are not poorly funded, but the costume bit seemed a bit of a stretch.

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I didn't perceive any negativity in the 'tons of hooks' reference. It is a fact, pure and simple. The costumes were expensive when they were built; they were built to last; and they must be used year after year by various dancers (and sometimes the same dancers).


The costumes will stretch somewhat as they are warmed up (if they are built with the proper lining) and will feel looser to the dancer each performance. (Rather like a ski boot that starts off very tight at the beginning of the week, but by the end, one is ratcheting those closures as tight as they can go and it may still feel a bit loose) Rather than have the costume mistress take off hooks and bars, another bar will just be added so the costume fits. Some corps costumes even start with a couple rows of bars just to accomodate that very thing. It is more cost effective to add bars and leave them than to spend the costume mistress' time making those closures pristine and one row only. When the next dancer needs the costume the next season (or whenever), the costumes are not whipped up fresh to order to that dancer's body, but rather adjustments are made as quickly and as expediously as possible----and the quickest, cheapest, and most expedious way to re-fit a costume is to move hooks and bars.


The costumes are borrowed/rented because it IS so expensive to costume a full length ballet from start to finish. That's a ton of costumes and that would eat up a big part of the budget. So, borrowing/renting costumes IS very much a funding issue. As the article states, some of those absolutely gorgeous-on-stage costumes are very tattered, multi-repaired, sad-looking things when viewed up-close-and-personal. It is a major event to have new costumes and to have a full newly-costumed ballet is a huge financial undertaking and expenditure.


The rentals provide an avenue of revenue for the company that owns the costumes and put forth the expenditure.

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Yeesh. Too much media devoted to the Fogarty family already. And that mom is incapable of budgeting?!? Must be nice. She is not doing her children any favours either by buying ALL THE THINGS and not modelling the crucial life skills of 1) living/working within your means, which means making and sticking to a budget and 2) making the necessary trade-offs that come with it and deciding what is a "want" vs a "need." If her child is aimed at a professional dance career, being aware of the concept of a budget will probably come in handy. It's much easier to be able to fall back on a developed skill when the need arises than to have to learn it from scratch in an emergency.


Articles like the "the price of staying en pointe" reinforce the idea that ballet is only for the elite/rich/upper classes and "the arts" are fluff that can be cut without any impact on real people or the larger culture. Meanwhile, ballet companies struggle to survive and dancers struggle to make a living, as the other articles document. The contrast is stark.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Why are tutu's $2,000?? I have never seen them that expensive! Even the nice ones.. Someone please explain?

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Professional tutus are very expensive to purchase. Our youth company's director will only buy tutus from Primadonna. These are very well made and can easily cost more than $1000 for an unadorned bodice and tutu. When high quality decorations are added the cost is increased greatly. These are worth the money for a company to purchase because of how well made and durable they are. Many of our tutus have been in use for decades!!


I don't think that I could ever justify spending the money to buy of these beautiful tutus for my daughter to use in a competition. But that is just my opinion. I feel as though her purposes could be served just as well in a much less expensive tutu, or better yet, by borrowing one (which is what we did when she did YAGP) To some people, however, it is important to have the best of the best & they have the deep pockets to pay for it. That's okay too, I guess.

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It really doesn't take much to reach a cost of $2000 for a professional, fully-embellished tutu, ready to dance. The very basic tutu (skirt and bodice) take approximately 20-25 hours to build. There is a lot of prep work that goes into just preparing the pieces before actual sewing even starts. There is a lot hand-work that also goes into finishing the basic tutu. A custom-fitted tutu has some additional hours in fitting and tweaking the pattern before the actual bodice, basque, panty are built. Then prior to finishing, there is an additional fitting or two.


Some tutus have design elements that increase the labor and cost of building, for instance, the cartridge-pleated tutus have additional construction steps and requirements. The hand-work alone needed to create those pleats takes several additional hours of work.


Once the tutu is built and the hand-work is finished, then the embellishing begins. The 'bling' that goes on a tutu adds up quickly, especially the laces, the trims, the Swarvoski crystals. All of those elements take time to figure out placement and design. Then the actual attachment of the embellishments begin and take time. The Swarvoski crystals are either hand-sewn or hand-glued, one by one, onto the tutu. The braids, laces, appliques, pearls, beads, etc are also applied by one by one. They are either sewn on or glued. Some trims may be able to be sewn on by machine, but it still takes time to arrange the placement and do it. It can take 10 hours of labor for a very simple design, more typically 20 hours, and 50 or more for a more elaborate and intricate design to be created and applied.


That is the process for a typical tutu builder who works from home or a shop.


Now, go in-house to NYCB or Joffrey Ballet where there is a whole costume shop complete with designers, head costumers, drafters, pattern-makers, and stitchers. There are layers of expense there added in meetings to discuss the different designs with choreographers, artistic directors, and to direct the costume department troops. There are special treatments and techniques that can be applied to the fabrics, nets, tulles before the patterning process even begins that can increase expense.


Then there's the cost of the materials. Although nylon net and tulle, in and of themselves, are relatively inexpensive (the exquisite silk tulle is about $40/yd or more, so only the best of the best can even think of using that!!), the powernet for the panties is about $12-15 /yd; the English bobbinette for the panties is about $40/yd. The brocades, jacquards, and silks can be expensive. The best lining (coutil) is expensive when compared to alternatives like twill or cotton. There is the steel boning and hooping.


So, between the cost of materials, the embellishments, and the labor, the real value of a professional quality tutu is high--especially those built in the costume shops of the ballet companies. There is a lot of talent, skill, and art that go into the building of a single tutu.


Consider what you would think would be a fair hourly rate for the tutu builder, multiply that by the number of hours of labor, then add in the material costs. That's a minimum cost. Now there are overhead costs: machines, electricity, wear-and-tear, repairs on machines, lights, cutting tables, mats, tools, space, etc. Very quickly it should become evident that tutu builders are engaged in a labor of love because it is very unlikely that they get paid what their actual time, skill, and outlay is worth.


But, as I said up-thread, a professional quality 9-10 layer tutu CAN be built for significantly less that $2000. A good tutu builder can make a professional quality tutu base, ready to dance (that is, fully tacked, hooks and bars sewn on) for around $500-600. The embellishments can be simple or elaborate. Typically, one could have a nicely embellished tutu built for $750-800. If some concessions are made (less expensive materials, not custom-fitted), the expense could be cut a bit more. IF bought from a commerical costume company, the price could be less----but I would venture to say that there are trade-offs in the build (fewer layers, lesser lining materials, less detailing, finishing left for customer, e.g., tacking, hooks/bars sewing), so be sure to compare oranges to oranges.

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:) ceecee-I need to meet your director. Primadonna tutus are wonderful! BUT, they are not the most well made tutus out there, have some limitations based on how they make them in terms of use for multiple dancers of differing bodies and expensive for what you get (plastic boning, less layers of net, ala carte menu, etc). If she hasn't venture out recently, he/she might want to take a visit to some of the wonderful tutumakers who have been trained by our own tutu.com and tutusthatdance.com and have become artists. I'll put one of their tutus up against a Primadonna tutu anyday to see which one lasts longer and is more substantial. With base plain tutus a bit less than $1000. Just saying.......... :)


I say this simply because my business is now mostly refurbishing tutus instead of making them. So I get the tutus from almost everyone to work on and bring back up to snuff.

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Momof3, thanks!! Check your inbox :flowers:

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  • 2 weeks later...

I was doing a search for something else and found this article from 2006. Hope it gives inspiration and shows one of the many ways the road can detour but the love of ballet can remain. It's possible we linked to it back then, but I don't remember it so am linking to it now.


From ballet to the courtroom

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Thanks so much for posting this article! My dd's plan B is to go into law if dancing does not work out for her. :3dnod:

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Thank you for posting this link. I am always thrilled to hear about the journey of a ballet dancer. What lucky dancers in New Zealand and Spain

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In an arena where so much focus can be on "stars", it is refreshing to hear stories of those willing and committed to passing on their skills and talent to furthering their art form with new dancers.

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