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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 Santa Fe Ballet Photo: Rosalie O'Connor

    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 Santa Fe Ballet, Time Out Magazine
  • 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

  • "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!

  • Waltz of the Flowers

    The Nutcracker Ballet's Waltz of the Flowers ...

    Waltz of the Flowers Group 72

    Romance. Beauty. Joy. These are just some of the words that come to mind when we think of the Waltz of the Flowers and--more specifically--our color-layered "Flower" tutus!

    Why?

    Because our designs are plucked directly from the meadows and forest glades of dreams, bursting with color and light. From the Amaryllis to the Zinnia, from the bold to the delicate, Class Act Tutu has collected a stunning bouquet of inspiration that will help you create the most visually captivating Nutcracker ever!

    Over the next several weeks, we'll be sharing some of our favorite floral designs. These choice tutus are sure to whisk your mind off to an enchanted garden where lilacs and roses dance in delight!

    But before you take off on a fragrant "flight of fancy", we want to hear from you! Tell us which flower(s) have given you inspiration or what flowers you would like to see us "collect"! We may share your ideas in an upcoming post.

  • Sightings: Whole Foods

    How Fun is This?

    Here is the Florida Classical Ballet Theatre performing in the produce section at Whole Foods Market in Palm Beach Gardens!

    Florida Classical Ballet

    Florida

    Style shown is Class Act Tutu's "Bird of Paradise" Color-Layered Romantic Tutu Skirts.

    click for more information on this performance

  • Sightings: Regina Opera, "Carmen"

    WendyChu in "Carmen" (Regina Opera)

    WendyChu

    The Brooklyn Daily Eagle says, "The principal dancers, Wendy Chu partnered by Nolan McKew were magical..." in this performance of Carmen by the Regina Opera. 

    Read the full review here.

    Photo © Brooklyn Daily Eagle 2010

    Wendy is wearing Class Act Tutus' Sweetheart Bodice with Nude inset in "Amethyst" with a Color-Layered Romantic Tutu skirt in:  Dusty Rose, Wine and Eggplant

  • Review: Pacific Northwest Ballet's Coppelia

    Pacific Northwest Ballet's Coppélia  All photos © Angela Sterling

    Pacific

    Pacific Northwest Ballet pulled out all the stops with their latest production of George Balanchine's, Coppelia.  This fantastic production features all new lavishly designed (read: gorgeous!) sets, to die for costumes, and of course the high-caliber artistry that PNB is world-famous for.

    Swanilda/Coppélia

    Saturday's matinee featured Lesley Rausch as Swanilda/Coppelia, Jerome Tisserand as Franz, and Olivier Wevers as Dr. Coppelius.  Right off the bat, I have to give serious applause to Rausch for her outstanding interpretation. She not only delighted everyone in the audience with her arrogance and saucy attitude, but she transported us into the heart of her character. Sure, Swanilda isn't the nicest of young ladies, but her love for Franz is evident, even when faced with the sting of rejection.
     

    Franz

    Jerome Tisserand's Franz was perfectly executed. Like Rausch, he had a way drawing me in, making me feel almost as fed up with Swanilda's antics as he was. His attitude was a perfect blend of inflated ego meets young playboy looking for love.  After discovering that his love interest is only a doll, one would expect Franz to act a bit more sheepish over his foolish behavior. (I mean, seriously!) However, Tisserand remains true to character and Franz casually glosses over that "minor faux pas" with a sudden profession of love for Swanilda, which of course, she accepts.

    Dr. Coppelius

     
    Olivier Wevers deserved the standing ovation he received for his performance as the highly eccentric, slightly creepy, Dr. Coppelius. How it is Wevers can pull such multi-faceted characters out of his back pocket is beyond me! His Dr. Coppelius was a thrilling "yin and yang"; an absent-minded and lonely old man, whose walking stick doubles as a handy weapon against "the wild hooligans" of the town. But underneath that "grumpy old man" veneer lurks a borderline-fiendish soul.

    Honorable Mentions

     
    Act three's splendid cast also deserves special mention. I was most impressed by Carrie Imler's "Dawn" and Sarah Ricard Orza's "Prayer". These dancers gave equally passionate and exquisite performances. Imler was a vision of dazzling sunlight--bright, confident and striking.  Ricard Orza danced "Like a fairy tale princess!" (to quote the little one sitting next to me) with her flowing port de bras and delicate phrasing. The action-packed "Discord and War" featured Batkhurel Bold and Lindsi Dec entering the stage like wild flashes of lightning dressed in silvery armor. As always, the power behind these two striking  dancers takes your breath away. Their amazing turns and leaps were all done whilst holding long spears--none of which whacked anyone else nor made kabobs out of their thighs. (An acrobatic feat of epic proportions, especially when you consider how clumsy the rest of is--read: yours truly!--would be in the same situation.)PNB's Coppelia is filled with good natured humor, an outstanding cast, and delicious imagery. If you haven't yet made your way to McCaw Hall to catch the "Happiest Ballet on Earth!", I would highly suggest that you do so. Like...today!

    Coppelia runs from June 3rd-13th. Tickets are available by visiting PNB.org.

     

    For those of you unable to attend, please enjoy our gallery of  Pacific Northwest Ballet's premiere production of Coppélia: Choreography by Alexandra Danilova and George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust (after Marius Petipa).

    All Photos © Angela Sterling

    For more stunning dance photos, visit  Angela Sterling Photography.


    By Denise Opper

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