Tutu project a visual treat

Pat Piercy of Nanaimo, Liana O’Brien of Gabriola Island and former Qualicum Beach resident Mary Parker work on a tutu original. - Brenda Gough photo
Pat Piercy of Nanaimo, Liana O’Brien of Gabriola Island and former Qualicum Beach resident Mary Parker work on a tutu original.
— image credit: Brenda Gough photo

Ballet’s most universally recognized symbol the “tutu” is undergoing some artistic modifications in a project to celebrate the National Ballet’s 60th anniversary.

Some volunteers from the Port Theatre in Nanaimo are re-designing one of 60 tutus that will be displayed during the 2011/12 season of the National Ballet of Canada.

The 60 tutus will include costumes from some of the great moments in the company’s history.

Tutus celebrating the company’s landmark anniversary will also be created by community groups and participants from the Port Theatre are hoping their creation will be chosen to go on tour during the ballet company’s 2011/2012 season.

Gabriola Island resident Liana O’Brien has been carting the special tutu on her ferry trips to Nanaimo over the past few weeks as she and a group of volunteers have been designing a tutu that reflects the harbor community. She said it has definitely sparked some conversations.

“It’s amazing how so many people have asked me about it. It’s been a fun project,” she admitted.

The tutu which was supplied by the National Ballet of Canada was basic when it arrived but it is far from plain now. A group of talented volunteers have come up with a creation that reflects the “Salmon Coming Home” carvings, a permanent instalment in the Port Theatre lobby created by carver Phill Ashbee.

The tutu is adorned with 60 fish, all hand sewn by some talented seamstresses in the group. There are 60 fish in total swimming around the costume, one for each year of the ballet. The band around the waist of the tutu depicts the coast range mountains as seen from O’Brien’s home on Gabriola.

Volunteer Pat Piercy quilted that section and O’Brien said they are thrilled at how the project has evolved.

She said even Phill Ashbee has had some input. He recently stopped by the theatre to see the work in progress and was pleased to see that it was inspired by his fish carvings.

“He was quite knocked out by what he saw. He said he didn’t expect the fish to be 3-D and he even gave some suggestions for the fish movement,” O’Brien said.

When the ballet performs at the Port Theatre on September 30 the tutu will be on display in the lobby. O’Brien said the National Ballet of Canada likes the West Coast theme of their tutu and are featuring it on their backstage blog.


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