Ten of our favourite tutus, on stage and up close

The mutable tutu
Nothing is more iconically ballet than pointe shoes ... and tutus. Over the centuries, tutus have dramatically shortened, but on the modern stage we see every variation on the form, from long Romantic gauzes to perky 'pancakes' to ... air-conditioning mesh? Yes. Here's a small curation of some stunners from The Australian Ballet's costume department. 
The Lilac Fairy
Gabriela Tylesova's costume for the Lilac Fairy in David McAllister's The Sleeping Beauty just about steals the whole show. Its intricately layered skirt was inspired by lilac petals and the bodice is hand-painted. Its exuberant skirts are suprisingly light to wear. 
Ballet Imperial
George Balanchine's tribute to his Russian imperial past calls for a splendour to match the days of Petipa and Tchaikovsky. Designer Hugh Colman responded with rich blues and golds: the tutu as Fabergé egg. These Ballet Imperial costumes would be right at home in St Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre. 
Nutcracker - The Story of Clara
Another tribute to the Imperial Theatres. In Graeme Murphy's reimagined Nutcracker, Clara is a prima ballerina, and the highlight of her career is dancing the Sugar Plum Fairy before the Tsar. This spectacular confection of burnished golds and ambers, by Kristian Fredrikson, is her costume for that performance. 
Vanessa Leyonhjelm's industrial tutu for Stanton Welch's Divergence became a 1990s ballet icon: part Elizabethan ruff, part futuristic club wear. The tutu's super-flexible skirt is made from air-conditioning mesh. At the finale of the ballet, the dancers rushed to the back of the stage, pulled the skirts over their hips, tossed them aside and ran back to finish the piece in their tights.
What sort of tutu does a vision wear? This. Barry Kay's costume for Dulcinea in Don Quixote is a luscious candy pink, sewn with myriad brilliants to give an unearthly shimmer. In the mind of the troubled Don, Dulcinea is his dream ideal, an air-castle princess forever leading him on. In Kay's tutu, she looks the part.
Dance of the Hours
This tranquil, lovely moment in Coppélia, where the Hours represent the still of the night, brought forth one of Kristian Frederikson's most fanciful creations. The Hours' tutus swim with turquoise clouds, a moon and stars, and the effect of them together is like a clear summer dusk.
Theme and Variations 
The tutus so nice, we used them twice. Hugh Colman originally created these tutus for George Balanchine's Theme and Variations. We've also recently used them in productions of Paquita. With all of this gilt-edged glory (pale gold for the soloists, a deeper copper-gold for the corps), who could resist? The curlicues edging the skirts are a Colman signature. 
Hugh Colman's original designs for Paquita have a charm (and a Spanish flavour) all their own. This is the tutu for pas de trois dancers, but its frothing layers of lace and cunning ribboned bodice render it worthy of the brightest limelight. 
In Alexei Ratmansky's Cinderella, created for The Australian Ballet in 2013, the heroine is whisked to the ball not by a mundane coach, but by the sun, moon and planets. Designer Jérôme Kaplan let his imagination soar in creating a suite of costumes for the celestial beings. Is Earth's puffball of tulle a tutu? We'll leave the purists to argue while we admire its deep green layers. 
Ballet Imperial
A very different take on Balanchine's Ballet Imperial, this one from 1967. Designer Kenneth Rowell had a ball with these tutus, which blend the opulence of Tsarist Russia with a touch of circus fun. This image was taken from side of stage by the renowned filmmaker and photographer Paul Cox. 
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