The leotard, the skin tight, one-piece garment that no dancer is ever without, was made famous by the French acrobatic performer Jules Leotard (1842–1870). Leotard, who was born in Toulouse, France and the son of a gymnastics instructor developed the art of Trapeze. At 18 he began to experiment with trapeze bars, ropes and rings suspended over a swimming pool. He later joined the Cirque Napoleon. Leotard was the inspiration for the song “ The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze“.
The first known use of the name leotard was in 1886, sixteen years after Leotard’s death. Leotard himself called the garment he wore a maillot, which is a general French word for different types of tight-fitting shirts or sports shirts. In the 1920s and 1930s, leotards began influencing the style of bathing suits, even in this day, one piece bathing suits are similar in appearance to leotards.
In a Ballet class no other garment is more necessary than a leotard, along with tights, pink tights are my preference. Black leotards are the most traditional color, however some ballet schools use various pastel colors to designate the graded level of each class in their childrens’ classes.
For example in the RAD syllabus school (Royal Academy of Dance) the follow colors are required for class:
Pre-Primary (Age 5 yrs old and up) – Pink leotard with sleeve and skirt. Primary (Age 6 yrs old and up) – Orchid leotard with sleeve and skirt. Grade 1 (Age 7 yrs old and up) – Pink sleeveless leotard and belt. Grade 2 – Light Blue sleeveless leotard and belt Grade 3 – Forest Green sleeveless leotard and belt. Grade 4 – Orchid sleeveless leotard and belt. Grade 5 – Mulberry sleeveless leotard and belt. Grade 6 and up – Navy Blue or Black sleeveless leotard and belt. Advanced 1 & 2 – Black sleeveless leotard and belt.
As a ballet teacher, looking into the mirror at a group of eight, ten or more dancers it is easier to correct mistakes when the class is all in the same color. I know that color preference style indicates individuality, but looking at many colors in a mirror just causes confusion. When paying for class, you would want the most of your tuition. Correction is necessary for excellence. Black is the most traditional color for ballet class, since it outlines the body and correct body placement is accentuated.