For the Love of Tutus

For Sara Bacon, sewing tutus is a passion and a livelihood.

Sara Bacon started making costumes when her daughter was a dancer. Soon, tutu construction became Bacon's full-time job. In this new video from LA Weekly, she explains how she works with clients—mostly Youth America Grand Prix dancers—who commission her to create the perfect costume to accompany their solos.

Each intricate tutu is like a child or a grandchild to her, she says. When she attends YAGP finals, she can spot years' worth of work onstage, because dancers loan or rent their tutus—which take Bacon up to 80 hours to make and can cost thousands of dollars—to other competitors.

She says she created this job for herself by doing what she loves—and this onetime dance mom loves creating beautiful costumes. Watch her in time lapse as she finishes a cropped-bodice look for Le Corsaire.

Teacher Voices
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In 2001, young Chanel, a determined, ambitious, fiery, headstrong teenager, was about to begin her sophomore year at LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, also known as the highly acclaimed "Fame" school. I was a great student, a promising young dancer and well-liked by my teachers and my peers. On paper, everything seemed in order. In reality, this picture-perfect image was fractured. There was a crack that I've attempted to hide, cover up and bury for nearly 20 years.

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Health & Body
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Though the #MeToo movement has spurred many dancers to come forward with their stories of sexual harassment and abuse, the dance world has yet to have a full reckoning on the subject. Few institutions have made true cultural changes, and many alleged predators continue to work in the industry.

As Chanel DaSilva's story shows, young dancers are particularly vulnerable to abuse because of the power differential between teacher and student. We spoke with eight experts in dance, education and psychology about steps that dance schools could take to protect their students from sexual abuse.

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Technique
Nan Melville, courtesy Genn

Not so long ago, it seemed that ballet dancers were always encouraged to pull up away from the floor. Ideas evolved, and more recently it has become common to hear teachers saying "Push down to go up," and variations on that concept.

Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico, says that this causes its own problems.

"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

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