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  • Superstition and the Dancer: From Hauntings to Good Luck Charms

    With Halloween approaching, we always love to revisit our post about superstition and the dancer. This post was originally post 7 years ago. Enjoy!!!

    Shhhhhhh.....

    Dancers and their theatrical peers are masters of the art of fantasy and characterization. In order to be successful at their craft, a dancer must create a believable character that leaves their audiences spell-bound. It is within the confines of the theater that both performer and viewer silently agree to believe the unbelievable. “Without these unspoken agreements, there could be no theater; with these agreements, all theaters become magic places where time shifts and identity is transformed.” (Haunted Theaters by Barbara Smith. 2002)

    This “unspoken agreement” helped propagate the rich history of superstition and rituals among performers throughout the ages.

    The Ghost in the TheaterThe Ghost in the Theater

    Haunting & Superstition

    Superstitious beliefs attached to the theater originated in the continental cities of Europe where the ballet predominated.  Even in these modern times, theaters tend to have a plethora of associated superstitions and ghost stories. Here are a few:

    The Ghost Light

    According to tradition, one should always leave a light on in an empty theater.  This light either wards off ghosts—or may just provide the ghosts enough light to see.  Failure to provide this may anger the ghosts leading to pranks and other mishaps.

    Rehearsal

    It is considered bad luck if a rehearsal goes smoothly. The feared results of a perfect rehearsal include a very short performance run, or the performance itself will be disastrous. It is also unlucky to speak the last line of a play before Opening Night.

    Whistling

    It is forbidden to whistle anywhere inside the theater, especially in or near the dressing rooms. The superstition states that if a whistle is heard, someone (although not necessarily the whistler) will soon lose their job.

    Wishing an Actor or Dancer “Good Luck”

    This is by far one of the most well-known superstitions. Wishing an actor or dancer “good luck” before a performance is considered extremely unlucky and is sure to bring disaster. Instead, one should wish an actor to “break a leg”, which is symbolic of “taking a bow” at the end of a worthy performance, and wish a dancer “merde”.

    Merde is actually French slang for “dung” but has an interesting history in regard to the dance world. Before the invention of cars, Parisian streets were filled with horse-drawn carriages and plenty of horse dung. As dancers made their way to the theater, they would caution one another to “not step in the merde”. During the evenings when the people—and their horses--were in vast attendance, all the “merde” outside was considered a good thing. Dancers soon began to wish one another “merde” before going on stage as a way of saying “watch your step”.

    The Scottish Play

    Shakespeare’s Macbeth is said to be the most cursed of all plays; therefore actors avoid saying its name. Euphemisms such as “The Scottish Play” or “The Bards’ Play” are used instead. The superstition states that terrible luck will befall on any company performing the play, ranging from strange accidents to actual death. In many parts of the world, even speaking the name “Macbeth” anywhere inside the theater or quoting from its text will cause that person to lose all of their theatrical friends.

    Closed for Ghosts

    According to superstition, the theater should always be closed one night a week in order to give the ghosts a chance to perform themselves. Monday night is usually preferred, as it also provides actors with a day off following weekend performances.

    The World’s Most Haunted Theaters

    Many of the world’s oldest and most renowned theaters are said to be haunted.

    Many of the world’s oldest and most renowned theaters are said to be haunted. Ghostly encounters range from the mischievous to the deadly, and plague performers, stage-hands and ushers alike. Instead of frightening theater patrons away, these tales seem to have the opposite effect by adding to the theater’s allure and mystique.

    The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London

    London’s oldest working theater is said to be home to several spirits. Perhaps the most famous is “The Man in Grey”, who appears as a nobleman dressed in a grey cloak, powdered wig, and 3-cornered hat. According to legend, “The Man in Grey” appears just prior to a successful run, and he’s said to enjoy poking and kicking the actors. The ghost of actor Joe Grimaldi is a welcome sight by nervous thespians. Reports of his helpful guidance have surfaced on several occasions.

    The Orpheum Theatre, Memphis Tennessee

    Within the confines of the “south’s finest theater” lives the ghost of a young girl named Mary. Although no one knows exactly how she came to the Orpheum, the most accepted theories suggest she was either run over by a horse-drawn carriage or an automobile in front of the theater, or she fell to her death from a balcony while watching a performance. “Mary” tends to enjoy the view from seat C-5 and those who sit there claim to feel cold chills. Others have reportedly heard a child giggling and running through the halls, doors opening and closing on their own, and the pipe organ playing by itself. Still other accounts insist that Mary is responsible for turning all the chairs in her box backwards during performances she doesn’t like.

    The Paramount Theater, Seattle Washington

    According to local legend, this Seattle-based icon is primarily haunted by the ghost of a beautiful, red-haired woman. We first heard of this story on Halloween day a few years ago, when we used the Paramount for a company photo shoot. Built in 1928, the Paramount is one of Seattle’s oldest theaters, with more than one ghost reportedly seen by its former employees. However, having a personal encounter with one of these apparitions seems to be getting harder to come by. According to sources, this is due to all the rock concerts held at the theater, and only a select few of its eerie patrons still enjoy them.  (Ghost Stories from the Pacific Northwest, by Margaret Read MacDonald.1996 )

    Superstition in the World of Dance

    Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the fact remains that many dancers hold fast to their own unique rituals and good luck charms.

    Superstition

    Some dancers wear "lucky" jewelry for every performance.

    For example, Vanessa Zahorian a principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet says a prayer and kisses the ground before going onstage. She also wears a diamond pinkie ring which her parents gave her as a child during every performance, kept hidden from view courtesy of tape.

    Some dancers such as Jon Leher, director of contemporary dance company LeherDance in Buffalo, New York, believe luck comes from a little extra sweat. Literally. “I try to wash (my warm-up clothes) as little as possible,” he says.

    Other pre-performance rituals include everything from forming a circle and linking pinkies with corps members, applying perfume, to warming up or doing one’s hair and make-up in a precise order.

    Conclusion

    However you slice it, superstitions and rituals are just as much a part of the dance world as company class and daily stretching. So whether you exit your dressing room left-foot-first, whisper a prayer, or simply say “break a leg” to your peers, every performer has their own way of avoiding the personal--and paranormal—pitfalls of the theater.

    All photographs © Angela Sterling

    Dancer/Model Stacy Lowenberg, Pacific Northwest Ballet

    We invite you to post your own performance rituals or ghostly encounters.

  • Loving Our Colors!

    We LOVE Colors

    At Class Act Tutu we LOVE our Color Layered Romantic Tutu styles.  We have so many colors of our exquisite tulle, that your options are nearly unlimited.

    Depth, Shading & a Stunning Visual

    Layering colors adds depth and shading that changes with movement and provides an absolutely stunning performance.  We think this look works very well for your Nutcracker Ballet's Waltz of the Flowers or Snow Scene. Check out our "Rose Splendor" ensemble in action in the video below.

    Ballet Academy East, George Balanchine's The Nutcracker™ Waltz of the Flowers.

    Dress Up Your Barbie

    One way to easily visualize how your color choices come together is to order our ruffled swatch sets and to dress up your Barbie (or soda bottle or whatever!).

    Tutu Swatches

    Order Your Color Cards and Ruffled Swatches Today!

    The price of our Tutu Bodice & Skirt Color cards and/or our Ruffled Swatch sets is deducted from your tutu order and shipping is FREE!  Order today and plan your Nutcracker Ballet tutus!

    Ruffled Swatches

    As always, if you need any assistance, contact us at 800.820.1667 or drop us an email. We are always happy to assist you.

  • Sightings: Aspen Santa Fe Ballet's Waltz of the Flowers

    It is so fun to see what various companies do in presenting, The Nutcracker Ballet (and pretty fun to find they are wearing our tutus when doing it!).

    Aspen Santa Fe Ballet   Photo: Rosalie O'Connor

    Aspen

    In Aspen Santa Fe Ballet's Nutcracker, instead of the Land of the Sweets, Clara is brought to a beautiful turn-of-the-century carousel, complete with blinking light bulbs and vintage carousel animals.  We found this photo of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet's "Flowers" wearing  Class Act Tutus posted in the Photo Essay: Nutcrackers Around the Nation Display Regional Flair from PBS.   Check Aspen Santa Fe Ballet's performance information on their website and get your tickets to see this lovely version of The Nutcracker Ballet.

    These Waltz of the Flowers Tutus feature Class Act Tutu's Scoop Neck Bodice with  a Color-Layered Romantic Tutu with Basque.  Embellishment by the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Costume Shop.

    Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Time Out Magazine

    Aspen

  • Quick Tip: Easy Tutu Skirt Embellishment

     Lilac Fairy Tutu design© CJDL Design

    Make your tutu skirt embellishment easy to place and to remove by attaching it to a lovely trim!

    1. Stitch your appliqués, petals, or whatever decorative pieces you are using to some coordinating trim.  Here we have used a metallic gold.
    2. Sew or glue some gems, beads, sequins, etc.
    3. Hand stitch the trim to the bottom of the tutu basque or waistband.
    4. Tack pieces to the tutu skirt if needed.

    Voila!

    Lilac Fairy Tutu design ©CJDL Design

  • How To Make a "Sugarplum" (for your Sugarplum Fairy Tutu)

    Sugarplum

    Sugarplum

    These Sugarplums were designed and created by Christine Joly of CJDL Design for this year’s Class Act Tutu Nutcracker Sugarplum Fairy tutu design.   These decorative Sugarplums are made using a combination of heat-formed thermoplastics and glued seed and bugle beads.  They are light, sturdy, can be sewn through and are drop-dead gorgeous!

    We are going to tell you step by step how to make these beautiful "Sugarplums" and if you scroll down to the bottom of this post you will find a list of sources for everything that you need for this fun project.

    If you are interested in having your Sugarplum tutu embellished by us, you may contact us for a design quote.

    What You Will Need

    1. One “Cabochon” (oval with a flat bottom) shape
    2. A stiff cardboard template of your shape
    3. Fosshape
    4. Heat gun, steam iron, steamer, or hair dryer
    5. Craft Glue
    6. Heat Proof Work Surface (foil covered metal pan or tray)
    7. Acrylic Paint(s)

    Step 1.  Make your template.

    • Trace your cabochon and add an extra 1/8 inch around the edge.  Cut out.
    • See the middle photo in the trio of pictures below.  NOTE:  The template is just a hole. You can see the tin foil lining the tray underneath.

    Step 2.  Cut your Fosshape.

    Fosshape is a fun “thermoplastic” cloth.  It feels like felt.  Fosshape starts out flexible and moldable but stiffens when heated.  It can be heated with a steam iron, hot air gun or hair dryer set on high.  This material, once formed, maintains its shape, can be sewn or glued and is wonderful for ornamentation, headpieces, masks, props, etc.  See our “Sources” at the end for more information on this fabric and where to purchase.

    • Cut your Fosshape fabric into pieces large enough to heat set over your mold.  This material can shrink up to 30%, so make sure your pieces are large enough.

    Step 3.  Shape and Heat.

    • Working on your heat proof work surface, place a piece of the cut Fosshape over the cabochon.
    • Carefully work your way around the shape holding your heat tool 4 to 5 inches from the surface.
    • When the Fosshape becomes soft and limp, press your cut-out template down and over it. (See far right photo in row below)
    • Fosshape cools very quickly, so you will have to work fast and keep pressure applied over the form.
    Cabochon, Template, Pressed Shape

    Cabochon,

    Step 4.  Paint Your Shape

    • With acrylic paints, paint the surface and base of your stiffened Fosshape.
    Painted Shape

    Painted

    Step 5.  Glue on Beads

    • Sort your beads into containers.  Christine used lighter shades as a highlight and three “plum” tones for the body.
    Sorted Beads

    Sorted

    • You will glue your beads onto the form in increments—not all at once.
    • Begin by squeezing a strip of glue along the top of your shape.  With a spoon, pour your beads over the glued area so they cover the glue.  (HINT:  Pour right back into your container so you have less to clean up!)
    • Gently tap down with your finger so that the beads are pushed into the glue.  Have a moist cloth available to wipe your fingers.
    • Let this harden at least ½ hour.  The glue can take up to 3 hours to fully dry.
    • Repeat this with all your shapes then move onto a different area of your form until the entire surface is covered.
    • IMPORTANT: Go back over your plums and gently push the beads into the glue BEFORE the glue has completely dried.
    Glueing Beads

    Glueing

    Step 6.  Finishing

    • Trim your “Sugarplums”, wrap with decorative cording, and stitch onto your project.
    Sugarplums Applied to the Tutu

    Sugarplums

    Sources

    Here is what we used and the easiest place to purchase that we could find.  If you have source suggestions, we would love to hear from you.

    Large Glass  (Fire Mountain Gems and Beads) or Acrylic (Art Fire ) “Cabochon” shape.

    Fosshape - Richard the Thread – Here you will also find additional instructions on using Fosshape.

    Aleen’s Tacky Glue & Acrylic Paint can be found easily at most craft stores like JoAnn or Michael’s

    Stay tuned!

    Next we will learn how to make the leaves.

    Sugarplum Parts

    Sugarplum Tutu ©CJDL Design for Class Act Tutu

    Sugarplum

    Sugarplum Ombre Detail

    Sugarplum

  • Amazing Costumes on a Budget: Savannah Arts Academy

    The Wizard of Oz, Savannah Arts Academy - Lollipop

    Lollipop

    To kick-off our "Amazing Costumes on a Budget" series, we'd like to take a moment and introduce you to the talented Christina Powell-Dance Department Chair of the Savannah Arts Academy in Georgia. Christina knows all about creating fabulous, professional-looking costumes--without breaking the bank! When we asked if she'd be interested in sharing some of her best "trade secrets" with our readers, she eagerly accepted. So, if your dance production is in the middle of a financial bind, you might want to take a few notes. So grab a pen (or bookmark this page), and get ready to be inspired!

    Class Act: So tell us, what initially prompted you and the Savannah Arts Academy to be "beautiful on a budget"? Was this something you've always done or did the current economy have something to do with it?

    Christina Powell: Working for a public school in a dance department that is fully supported by fundraising efforts and ticket sales to productions (we receive no funding from the local or state government), we must be extremely creative with our funds. We must work around [financial] issues to be beautiful on a budget. We ask for a lot of help from local seamstresses who donate their time and sometimes even the cost of materials to create costumes for us. For tutus, we order the skirts with basques from Class Act Tutu and the matching basque fabric for the bodices. We then have parent volunteers or local costumers make the bodices for each dancer to complete the look. In addition, we sometimes work with fashion students from our local art college, Savannah College of Art and Design.

    Class Act: Are there any specific actions that you take to do this? How does it all come together?

    Christina Powell: Well, at the beginning of the year, I take inventory of our costume closet and create a list of the most wanted items that I’d like to purchase for the year. Two years ago, we ordered an entire set of white romantic tutu skirts from Class Act Tutu. This was our first big tutu purchase! In order to save money, we had the bodices made to complete the look. We used those tutus for a Swan Lake excerpt and for the Fairy Corps in Cinderella. We used them again this year for the Emerald City Corps during our ballet, "The Wizard of Oz". Each time we use the white tutus, we change the decoration to fit the part. For the Emerald City Corps, a parent volunteer added emerald tulle overlays and a gold ribbon design on the bodice. The tulle was purchased in bulk from Class Act Tutu. Outside of ordering tutus, we also order other costumes that I feel like we’ll get a lot of use out of. For example, we ordered some Rockette-like white costumes that we wore in our Winter Dance Concert. We used them again for a local holiday event in downtown Savannah. The girls dressed up as snowflakes using these same costumes. Then in, "The Love of Broadway", our final show this year, we used these costumes again with added gold accents to perform “One” from A Chorus Line. So, my advice is that you prioritize your costumes needs, determine what costumes you can get the most out of, and take baby steps each year until you create a wonderful costume closet!

    Class Act: You know, I wonder how many other dance companies will read this and think, "Hmm. Why didn't we think of that?" Now, I also heard that you re-decorate your tutus. Would you share some examples of that with us?
    The Wizard of Oz, Savannah Arts Academy - Poppies

    Poppies

    Christina Powell: Yes, we do this a lot! For the lollipop tutus, I ordered that set of costumes at the beginning of the year. For our Winter Dance Concert, we used those tutus for a Sleeping Beauty excerpt. Then, we redecorated them for the Lollipop Corps for Wizard of Oz. We do this for all of our tutus. We always sew decorations onto the costumes so that we can easily take them off to change the look for the next performance. Never use glue! Also, skirt overlays are a great way to add color to costumes and to completely change the original look. The skirt overlays work best on white romantic tutus.

    Class Act: Do you have any final words of advice or any "Top Tips" that you'd like to share before we close?

    Christina Powell: It is so easy to get overwhelmed with costuming needs, especially if you are just starting to build a costume closet and you’re on a budget. When I took over as the chair of the Savannah Arts Academy Department of Dance, we didn’t even own a tutu! That was two years ago. Now, we own two complete sets of romantic length tutus (a white set and a pink set), a set of euro-tutus (red for the Poppy Corps for Wizard of Oz),  four romantic tutus for the Cinderella fairies (Summer, Spring, Winter, and Autumn),  and several pancake tutus (Fairy Godmother, Mazurka lead for Cinderella, Wizard for Wizard of Oz, etc). We have already used the white tutus in four shows, and the pink tutus in two shows. The red pancake tutu has been worn for the Mazurka lead in Cinderella, the Spanish variation for Nutcracker, the Don Quixote pas de deux, and the Poppy Lead in Cinderella!  Lots of use out of the red pancake tutu! Also, the winter fairy tutu was also re-worn by Glinda the Good Witch for Wizard of Oz. The best advice I can give someone wanting to build a costume closet, is to prioritize! Think about what kinds of costumes you need for your upcoming shows. Think about what you can get the most out of. Start basic (a set of white romantic tutus is a great place to start! They are so versatile and beautiful on stage!!!), and again--take baby steps! Breathe! And most of all, have fun!

    Thank you so much, Ms. Powell! Your creative ideas are going to come in handy for so many dancers out there. We wish you and the Savannah Arts Academy continued success! If you'd like to learn more about the programs available through the Savannah Arts Academy or attend future performances, please click here.

    Denise Opper ~ Media Relations

  • Sightings!

    Photo: Rosalie O’Connor. Ballet Academy East 2009 “our special waltz”, choreographed by Stacy Caddell.

    Photo:

    Check out this stunning photo featuring ABT professional division student, Hannah Marshall wearing our Romantic tutu skirt and sweetheart bodice in Ballet Pink!

    The photo is featured in the article, "Like Mother, Like Daughter - When Ballet Careers Run in the Family" in the April/May 2012 issue of Pointe Magazine. Doesn't she look amazing..?!

  • How to Wear Ballet Skirts

    Pink Romantic Tutu Skirt

    Pink

    Thanks in part to Natalie Portman's Oscar winning performance in "Black Swan", tutus have become this season's hottest fashion trend. If you're feeling inspired to go ballet chic this spring, Class Act Tutu's got you covered with a variety of custom tutu styles to fit every shape, size and budget imaginable!

    If you're worried you can't wear a tutu skirt because you're too short? tall? busty? {or just might look a bit silly}, have no fear! Simply follow the fashion tips below and you'll be rockin' the catwalk in no time!

    Styles To Best Suit YOU


    Got an athletic shape?
    An embellished top with a longer skirt would suit you best, finished off with a pair of ballet flats.

    On the petite side?
    Keep your skirt length closer to the knee rather than below, lest you look like you're drowning in fabric. Wear with a fitted bustier-style top in a contrasting print for a knockout look.

    Busty?
    Experiment with a more casual look by wearing with a crisp, white shirt knotted at the waist and pair of sleek ballet flats.

    Pear shaped?
    Try long-sleeved fitted tops with boat necklines, or a tank and cardigan set, to balance out your hips and all that tulle!

    Adapted from  Sydney Morning Herald, Life & Style's 3/1/11 post "How to wear ballet skirts"

  • Sightings: Aspen Santa Fe Ballet's "Nutcracker by the Numbers"

    We love these mathematical rundowns of productions.  It gives a small sense of all the work that goes on behind the scenes to create a performance.  We were thrilled to see this piece posted by Aspen Santa Fe Ballet that show some Class Act Tutus in the piles!

    Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, "Nutcracker by the Numbers"

    Aspen

    Aspen Santa Fe Ballet has performances of the Nutcracker in Omaha, Santa Fe and Aspen.  Get your tickets!

  • "Lavender Meadow" Tutu Ensemble

    Our "Lavender Meadow" ensemble boldly goes where no "shrinking violet" has gone before! Taking our inspiration from nature's most fragrant fields, Lavender Meadow boasts a spectacular display of rich, vibrant color that is guaranteed to put a dash of "pizazz" in your Nutcracker's Waltz of the Flowers! Opulent hues such as wood violet, deep purple, lavender and soft pink create a show stopping ensemble that is sure to please audience members, both young and old alike.

    As with all of our exclusive Nutcracker ensembles, Lavender Meadow is available at an incredible savings for one week only! Order yours TODAY!

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